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THE ART OF BUILDING CITIES 




ST. MARKS PLAZA, VENICE: Colonnade of the Pzocmatie Nuove (from the pai: 

National Gallery, London) 


painting by Canaletto in the 


Photograplied irom on iUustration in "Pcdnting in OUs" by Bertram NichoUs, 


The Studio Publications, Inc., London and New York ( 



THE ART OF BUILDING CITIES 


cify building 
according fo iis 
artistic fundamentals 



TRANSLATED BY 

CHARLES T. STEWART 

FORMER DIRECTOR, THE URBAN LAND INSTITUTE 


REINHOLD PUBLISHING CORPORATION 


330 WEST 42nd STREET 


NEW YORK, N, Y. 


1945 



Copyrig-ht^ 1945, t>y 
Reinhold Piifolishing Corporcction 

All rights reserved. 


Pirixitedl iix XJ, S- A- Ar-KcxY PriixtinQ' Co*; Ixic* 



A NOTE ON CAMiLLO SITTE 

In the closing years of the last century, Sitte's book on town 
building was widely familiar among architects of that generation, 
particularly in the German speaking countries and in Northern 
Europe. As a result, a strong groundwork was laid for an architectural 
understanding of the fact that the building must be an integral part 
of an environment of such organic town pattern as is expressive of 
contemporary conditions, and of no other conditions. Simultaneously 
with this understanding of organic town pattern, and subsequently 
to a great extent as a logical consequence of it — although Sitte him- 
self did not particularly stress this point, or perhaps was not even in 
those days of imitation distinctly aware of it — ^there became laid an 
equally strong groundwork for such an understanding of architecture 
that even the architectural style-form must express contemporary 
conditions, and no other conditions. This brought the prevailing archi- 
tectural education of that super-stylistic "Beaux-Arts" order into dis- 
repute, and a search for a new form-expression became widespread 
and alive. 

lust in these years (1896) I started my architectural practice. 
And, as I had become animated from the very start by the core of 
Sitte's teachings, it then so happened that during my subsequent 
architectural practice of almost half a century I never have designed 
and executed any buildings in a preconceived style-form. I simply 
could not do it. More than that: during all this long period of time, it 
has been simply impossible for me to regard a building of borrowed 
and alien style-form— no matter how magnificent — as belonging to 
the realm of the art of building, but only as a product of "building 
trade," enveloped in a jacket of meaningless decoration. This has 
been by no means conceit on my part. Rather, it has been just as truly 
an indigenous and intense feeling within me as is that feeling truly 
indigenous and intense within any child that a strange, cold, and 
unconcerned damsel, trimmed in pretentious attire, is not one's 
mother. I have been satisfied with this feeling. And I am sure that I 
hove this feeling, to a great extent, thanks to Sitte's teaching, through 



which I learned to undertsand those laws of architecture that are from 
time immemorial. 

Surely, this is the highest tribute that I personally can pay to 
Sitte's book on town building. 

In the chapter, "Informal Revival," of my book THE CITY I have 
endeavored a short analysis of Sitte's ideas. I am now pleased to know 
that Sitte's book in extenso will be available in English translation. 
Indeed, it is not too early! 

ELIEL SAARINEN 

Cranbrook Academy of Art 
February, 1944 



Translator's Preface 


A literal, if cumbersome, translation of the title of this book 
would be "City Building According To Its Artistic Fundamentals." It 
was written by Camillo Sitte, a Viennese architect, and first appeared 
in 1889 to burst like a demolition bomb on the city planning practices 
of Europe. Its attack upon monotony and dreariness in city arrange- 
ment precipitated a revolt against unimaginative formality which Mr. 
Eliel Saarinen regards as the "informal revival" in city planning — the 
effort to restore fundamental but forgotten principles in civic design. 

Sitte's work has been translated into French and Spanish. 
Although it has not previously appeared in English, it has exercised 
a persistent, although necessarily a diminished, influence in English 
speaking countries. It is presented, even half a century late, to Ameri- 
can readers because it has much that is timely to say to us in a day 
that is marked for the structural rebirth of our cities. Sitte's mighty 
scorn for the uninspiring practices of his day retains its cauterizing 
sting for ours. While some of his specific suggestions may need re- 
appraisal in the light of new elements in urban living that have been 
introduced since he lived and wrote, the essentials of his book, the 
"artistic fundamentals," have not been invalidated by the passage 
of time. 

Rebuilding of cities has become a vital subject in America. It 
has a prominent and urgent place on our post-war agenda. Prepara- 
tions being made for it are largely legalistic and financial. When the 
decks have been cleared of these fiscal preliminaries, we shall be 
face to face with the practical problem of rebuilding our cities in good 
taste as well as for efficiency and economy. We shall then find The 
Art of Building Cities as timely as the morning paper. 

My thanks are due to Mr. Herbert U. Nelson for encouragement 
to prepare the translation; to Mr. Eliel Saarinen, Mr. Ralph Walker, 
and Mr. Arthur Holden for their valued contributions to the volume; 
to Mr. Kenneth Reid and Mr. Gessner G. Hawley for numerous edi- 
torial suggestions; to the Harvard University Library and Avery 
Library of Columbia University for the protracted loan of the fourth 
edition of Sitte's Der Stddtebau and the French version of Camille 
Martin. 

Washington, D. C. 

September 17, 1944 


CHARLES T. STEWART 




/')( present day qualities of the city 

were well envisioned in 1889 by 
iL Sitte. The monotonous building 
lines, the endless streets, the rigid gridiron, 
the small amount of open space, were all 
indicated to him in the trends toward the 
engineer-controlled city. The lack of coor- 
dinated design, even in the few sterile 
attempts at the grandiose which were 
attempted, proved a poverty of imagina- 
tion which could but lead to the now all too 
evident ugly city. 

The growing number of comforts 
within the modern shelter had, one by one, 
eliminated the desire for pageantry in the 
space outside. The underlying idea of the 
forum and the plaza, throughout the ages 
the focal points of classical and medieval 
cities, took on less social and political mean- 
ing. This was followed, unfortunately, by 
an introversion of citizen interest so that 
here, too, there was lost an active sense of 
participation in those urban affairs which 
directly affected his welfare. 

The rulers of great cities which 
sprawled over and obliterated active and 
normal village life, forgot that unless a city 
developed the art of living within itself, 
forgot that unless it further developed the 


Introduction to the English Translation 

by Ralph Walker 

physical and emotional qualities in a visual 
art vital to its citizens, the citizens might 
seek, as they have, other places where 
these qualities could be found. 

Sitte offers an esthetic approach in- 
tended to bring about, within the city, on 
outdoor life possessing intellectual and 
emotional stimuli. His analysis of the faults 
underlying the trends toward gigantic and 
chaotic urban growth are as profound to- 
day as they were at the end of the last 
century. He condemned the long and pur- 
poseless vista, the lack of emotional inter- 
est in the rigid building lines inherent in 
speculative land promotion, foreseeing 
that this would lead to a "cube motif" in 
architecture and finally to a city where peo- 
ple would be hived and warehoused rather 
than one where on active citizen participa- 
tion might be encouraged through a pride 
and satisfaction in the place of living. 

The modern engineer city philos- 
ophy, at present so influential, develops 
naturally into the great walls of Corbusier's 
"City of Tomonow," of "La Ville Radieuse," 
and which can best be described as: From 
cell to cell— a cell in a housing hill to a cell 
in a larger heap (the mass production fac- 
tory or the skyscraper); from artificial life to 

vii 



The Art of Building Cities 


artificial work, dwellers and workers in 
cells, travelers in cells. Utopia is the promise 
that all these monotonous cells belong to 
the dictatorship of the "little men" who 
occupy them. Here, indeed, is logic untem- 
pered by humanity. 

Every community needs a symbol of 
its existence. Much of modern community 
frustration has come into being because a 
symbol of the visual reason for its life is 
missing. Because no symbol is found there 
is no center on which to focus life. 

The social and esthetic problem fac- 
ing every large city in America and needing 
solution is how to take the deadly gridiron 
plan and remold it into a greater freedom 
and a larger quality of community integra- 
tion. The present concept of a quiet island 
community surrounded by and at the same 
time insulated from arterial highways, and 
served within by a broken pattern of roads 
and open spaces designed to limit speed, 
needs a designer fully conscious of the 
need for social and esthetic composition as 
well as for the utilities which make for com- 
fort and sanitary safety. 

The fact that so many of the exam- 
ples which Sitte uses from the cities of the 
past are relatively small in scale has for 
our time many sound psychological mean- 
ings, because where the citizen hitherto has 
been active in the development of urban 
cultures the scale of his community has 
been related and comprehensible to him. 
He, therefore, has been able to receive in 
return as great a stimulus as he imparts. 


It is then in this return to human com- 
prehension and scale that Sitte suggests 
there will be found not only the needed 
sanity and repose in contrast to the neurosis 
inherent in the megalomanian scale of the 
unplanned modern city, but also those com- 
munity qualities with which we may de- 
velop a more satisfactory urban design in 
the future. 

Sitte's ideas concerning community 
scale and esthetic order bring into sharp 
relief some of the fallacies in the design 
philosophy so prevalent in the many zon- 
ing ordinances throughout the country, one 
of which, for example, is the insistence upon 
a uniform front yard. The monotony so char- 
acteristic of the modern city is thus em- 
bedded in law. In the "quiet island" the 
streets need be designed for minor local 
and slow traffic only, thereby permitting 
community arrangements which focus at- 
tention on composed relationships and 
pleasant vistas rather than on the endless 
sky ahead. To effect this will require a 
greater freedom under the zoning laws, and 
a larger responsibility granted planning 
groups. We now see a growing apprecia- 
tion of this need for design develop in large 
projects, but the great amount of building 
under existing laws is still sited on anti- 
quated principles of urban esthetics, as well 
as on dangerous principles of street design. 

Sitte's book, moreover, points up the 
contrast between the actual design of the 
classical city with its conscious apprecia- 
tion of composed impressions and the so- 


viii 



Introduction by Ralph Walker 


called monumental and symmetrical effects 
inherent in the use of the drafting board 
center axis; the contrast between those who 
worked with and on the site itself and those 
others who must always change the flow 
of nature into symmetrical sterility. 

It should not be forgotten that the 
scale of open spaces is definitely related to 
the mass and quality of the buildings which 
surround them. Formality or informality of 
space design are not to be achieved by 
arbitrary decisions, they have natural asso- 
ciations. The free country-like landscaped 
park which fits the low skyline of London 
would seem out of place in cities where 
buildings are taller and which therefore, 
because of greater architectural masses, 
demand a more formal treatment. Nor need 
this quality become unnecessarily gran- 
diose. 

The modern city form under the pres- 
sure caused by the deserts of masonry has 
become increasingly chaotic in its wide- 
spread decentralization. At the same time 
there has been everywhere an increasing 


demand for a return to outdoor life; because 
the greater leisure possible under modern 
production methods has created a need for 
recreational areas. The city which, in the 
past, seemed because of its complete con- 
gestion impossible of achieving any of the 
needed open spaces except at great cost, 
will find at present many opportunities in 
the operation of building and neighborhood 
obsolescence. Fortunately the opportunity 
and the knowledge of the extent of the re- 
quired need are in parallel. 

How the opportunity is accepted, 
how enduring the results, will depend 
largely upon the philosophy under which 
the projects are designed. Sitte offers one 
way of achievement which is as usable 
today as it was in the past in insuring a 
consistent stability. The American architect 
and planner will owe a great deal to 
Charles Stewart for the first and very ex- 
cellent and complete translation into Eng- 
lish of Sitte's book . They will find it of 
greater value the more the present monot- 
ony persists. 


ix 




CONTENTS 


Page 


A Note on Camillo Sitte, by Eliel Saaiinen iii 

Translator's Preface v 

Introduction to the English Translation, by Ralph Walkei vii 

Author's Introduction I 

I THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BUILDINGS, MONUMENTS, AND PUBLIC SQUARES 8 

II. OPEN CENTERS OF PUBLIC PLACES 13 

III. THE ENCLOSED CHARACTER OF THE PUBLIC SQUARE 20 

IV. THE FORM AND EXPANSE OF PUBLIC SQUARES .- 25 

V. THE IRREGULARITY OF ANCIENT PUBLIC SQUARES 30 

VI. GROUPS OF PUBLIC SQUARES 35 

VII. ARRANGEMENT OF PUBLIC SQUARES IN NORTHERN EUROPE 40 

VIII. THE ARTLESS AND PROSAIC CHARACTER OF MODERN CITY PLANNING 53 

K. MODERN SYSTEMS 59 

X. MODERN LIMITATIONS ON ART IN CITY PLANNING 69 

XI. IMPROVED MODERN SYSTEMS 74 

XII. ARTISTIC PRINCIPLES IN CITY PLANNING — AN ILLUSTRATION 95 

XIII. CONCLUSION 110 

Supplementary Chapter, PRESENT SIGNIFICANCE OF SITTE'S ARTISTIC 
FUNDAMENTALS, by Arthur C. Holden 114 

Author's Preface 121 

Author's Preface to 2nd Edition 122 

Author's Preface to 3rd Edition 122 

Siegfried and Heinrich Sitte Preface to 4th Edition 123 

Index 125 


XI 




Author's Introduction 


M emory of travel is the stuff of our 
fairest dreams. Splendid cities, 
plazas, monuments, and land- 
scapes tnus pass before our eyes, and we 
enjoy again the charming and impressive 
spectacles that we have formerly experi- 
enced. If we could but stop again at those 
places where beauty never satiates, we 
could bear many dreary hours with a light 
heart and pursue life's long struggle with 
new energies. Assuredly the imperturbable 
lightheartedness of the South, on the Hel- 
lenic coast, in lower Italy and other favored 
climes, is above all a gift of nature. And the 
old cities of these countries, built after the 
beauty of nature itself, continue to augment 
nature's gentle and irresistible influence 
upon the soul of man. Only the person who 
has never understood the beauty of an 
ancient city could contradict this assertion. 

Let him go ramble on the ruins of 
Pompeii to convince himself of it. If, after a 
day of patient investigation there, he walks 
across the bare Forum, he will be drawn, in 
spite of himself, to the summit of the monu- 
mental staircase toward the terrace of Jupi- 
ter's temple. On this platform, which domi- 
nates the entire place, he will sense, rising 
within him, waves of harmony like the pure. 


full tones of sublime music. Under this in- 
fluence he will truly understand the words 
of Aristotle, who thus summarized all prin- 
ciples of city building: "A city should be 
built to give its inhabitants security and 
happiness." 

The science of the technician will not 
suffice to accomplish this. We need, in addi- 
tion, the talent of the artist. Thus it was in 
ancient times, in the Middle Ages, and in the 
Renaissance, wherever fine arts were held 
in esteem. It is only in our mathematical 
century that the construction and extension 
of cities has become a purely technical mat- 
ter. Perhaps, then, it is not beside the point 
to recall that these problems have diverse 
aspects, and that he who has been given 
the least attention in our time is perhaps not 
the least important. 

The object of this study, then, is clear. 
It is not our purpose to republish ancient 
and trite ideas, nor to reopen sterile com- 
plaints against the already proverbial 
banality of modern streets. It is useless to 
hurl general condemnations and to put 
everything that has been done in our time 
and place once more to the pillory. That 
kind of purely negative effort should be left 
to the critic who is never satisfied and who 


1 



The Art of Building Cities 


can only contradict. Those who have enough 
enthusiasm and faith in good causes should 
be convinced that our own era con create 
works of beauty and worth. We shall ex- 
amine the plans of a number of cities, but 
neither as historian nor as critic. We wish 
to seek out, as technician and artist, the 
elements of composition which formerly 
produced such harmonious effects, and 
those which today produce only loose and 
dull results. Perhaps this study will permit 
us to find the means of satisfying the three 
principal requirements of practical city 
building: to rid the modern system of blocks 
and regularly aligned houses; to save as 
much as possible of that which remains 
from ancient cities; and in our creation to 
approach more closely the ideal of the 
ancient models. 

This standpoint of practical art will 
lead us to consider especially the cities of 
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. We 
shall be content, on recalling examples 
from Greek and Roman conceptions, either 
to explain the creations of following epochs, 
or to support the ideas that we propose to 
develop. For the principal architectural ele- 
ments of cities have greatly changed since 
antiquity. Public squares (Forum, market, 
etc.) ore used in our times not so much for 
great popular festivals or for the daily needs 
of our life. The sole reason for their existence 
is to provide more air and light, and to break 
the monotony of oceans of houses. At times 
they also enhance a monumental edifice by 
freeing its walls. It was quite different in 


ancient times. Public squares, or plazas, 
were then of prime necessity, for they were 
theaters for the principal scenes of public 
life, which today take place in enclosed 
halls. Under the open sky, on the agora, the 
council of the ancient Greeks gathered. 

The market place, a further center of 
activity for our ancestors, has persisted, it is 
true, to the present time, but more and more 
it is being replaced by vast enclosed halls. 
And how many other scenes of public life 
have totally disappeared? Sacrifices before 
the temples, games, and theatrical presen- 
tations of all kinds. The temples themselves 
were scarcely covered, and the principal 
part of dwellings, around which were 
grouped large and small rooms, consisted 
of an open court. In a word, the distinction 
between the public square and other struc- 
tures was so slight that it is amazing to our 
modern minds, accustomed to a very dif- 
ferent state of things. 

A review of the writings of the period 
proves to us that the ancients themselves 
sensed this similarity. Thus Vitruvius does 
not discuss the Forum in connection with 
the placement of public buildings or the ar- 
rangement of streets in his account of Dino- 
crates and his plan of Alexandria. But he 
does mention it in the same chapter which 
discusses the Basilica, and in the same book 
(1, 5.) he deals with the theaters, palaces, the 
circus, and the baths. That is to say, all 
gathering places under the open sky consti- 
tuted architectural works. The ancient 
Forum corresponds exactly to this defini- 


2 



Author's Introduction 


tion, and Vitruvius logically places it in this 
group. This close relationship between the 
Forum and a public hall enhanced architec- 
turally by statues and paintings is brought 


out clearly by the Latin writer's description, 
and more clearly still by on examination of 
the Forum of Pompeii. Vitruvius writes 
again on this subject; 



1 

FORUM OF POMPEII 

1 Temple of Jupiter, II En- 
closed Market, III Temple 
of Household Gods, IV 
Temple of Vespasianus, V 
Eumachia, VI Comitium, 
VII-IX Public Buildings, X 
Basilica, XI Temple of 
Apollo, XII Market Hall 


3 





The Art of Building Cities 


"The Greeks arrange their market 
places in the form of a square and sur- 
round them by vast double columns sup- 
porting stone or marble architraves 
above which run the promenades. In Ital- 
ian cities the Forum takes another aspect, 
for from time immemorial it has been the 
theater of gladiatorial combats. The cdl- 
umns, therefore, must be less densely 
grouped. They shelter the stalls of the 
silversmiths, and their upper floors have 
projections in the form of balconies which 
are advantageously placed for frequent 
use and for public revenue." 

This description illustrates well the 


correspondence between theater and 
Forum. This relationship appears still more 
striking when we examine the plan of the 
Forum of Pompeii (Figure 1 ). The square is 
surrounded on all sides by public buildings. 
The temple of Jupiter alone rises in isola- 
tion. And the two-story colonnade which 
surrounds the entire space is interrupted 
only by the peristyle of the temple of the 
household gods, which makes a greater 
projection than the other buildings. The 
center of the Forum remains free, but its 
periphery is occupied by numerous monu- 
ments, the pedestals of which, covered with 
inscriptions, are still visible. 



4 


FOEUM ROMANUM 



Author's Introduction 


What a grandiose impression this 
place must have made! To our modern point 
of view its effect is like that of a great con- 
cert hall without ceiling. In every direction 
the eye fell upon edifices which in no re- 
spect resembled our files of modern houses, 
and there were far fewer streets opening 
directly on the plaza. Streets ran behind 
buildings III, IV, and V, but they did not ex- 
tend as far as the Forum. Streets C, D, E, and 
F were closed by grilles, and even those on 
the north side passed under the monumen- 
tal portals, A and B. 


Forum Romanum (Figure 2) was con- 
ceived according to the same principles. It 
is surrounded, of course, by buildings more 
varied in type but all monumental. The 
streets which open onto it were arranged to 
avoid too frequent openings in the frame of 
the plaza. Monuments are located around 
its sides rather than in its center, In brief, the 
place of the forum in cities corresponds to 
that of the principal room of a house. It is to 
the city, so to speak, the principal hall, as 
well arranged as it is richly furnished. 
There stand assembled in immense bulk the 




Author's Introduction 


columns, the statues, the monuments, and 
everything that can contribute to the splen- 
dor of the place. The art treasures of some 
of them were said to be numbered in hun- 
dreds and thousands. As they did not en- 
cumber the midst of the plaza, but were 
always located at the periphery, it was pos- 
sible to encompass them all with a single 
glance, and the spectacle must have been 
imposing. This concentration of plastic and 
architectural masterpieces at a single point 
was a stroke of genius. Aristotle had taught 
it. He advocated grouping the temples of 
the gods with public buildings. Pausanias 
wrote similarly, "A city without public edi- 
fices and squares is not worthy of its name." 


The market place of Athens is ar- 
ranged in its principal features according 
to the same rules, as well as may be judged 
from the restoration projects. They are ap- 
plied on a still grander scale in the conse- 
crated cities of Hellenic antiquity (Olympia, 
Delphi, Eleusis) (Figure 3). Masterpieces of 
architecture, painting, and sculpture are 
found there in a superb and imposing union 
capable of rivaling the most powerful trag- 
edies and the most majestic symphonies. 
The Acropolis of Athens (Figure 4) is the 
most finished creation of this character. A 
high plateau surrounded by high walls is 
the base of it. The lower entrance portal, 
the enormous flight of steps, and monumen- 



THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS IN THE AGE OF PERICLES 


6 



Author's Introduction 


tal vestibules constitute the first phrase of 
this symphony in marble, gold, ivory, 
bronze, and color. The interior temples and 
monuments are the stone myths of the 
Greek people. The highest poetry and 
thought are embodied in them. It is truly the 
center of a considerable city, an expression 
of the feelings of a great people. It is no 
longer a simple square in the ordinary 
sense of the term, but the work of several 


centuries grown to the maturity of pure art. 

It is impossible to establish a higher 
aim in this style, and it is difficult to imitate 
successfully this splendid model, but it 
should always remain before our eyes in all 
our works as the most sublime ideal to 
attain. In the progress of our study we shall 
see that the principles which have inspired 
such building are not entirely lost, but that 
they remain to us. 


7 



The Relationship Between Buildings, 
Monuments, and Public Squares 


N the South of Europe, and especially in 
Italy, where ancient cities and ancient 
. public customs have remained alive 
for ages, even to the present in some places, 
public squares still follow the type of the 
ancient forum. They have preserved their 
role in public life. Their natural relation- 
ships with the buildings which enclose them 
may still be readily discerned. The distinc- 
tion between the forum, or agora, and the 
market place also remains. As before, we 
find the tendency to concentrate outstand- 
ing buildings at a single place, and to orna- 
ment this center of community life with 
fountains, monuments, and statues which 
can bring back historical memories and 
which, during the Middle Ages and the 
Renaissance, constituted the glory and 
pride of each city. 

It was there that traffic was most 
intense. That is where public festivals and 
theatrical presentations were held. There it 
was that official ceremonies were con- 
ducted and laws promulgated. In Italy, ac- 
cording to varying circumstances, two or 
three public places, rarely a single one, 
served these practical purposes. 

The existence of two powers, tem- 
poral and spiritual, required two distinct 


centers: one, the cathedral square (Figure 
5) dominated by the campanile, the bap- 
tistry, and the palace of the bishop; the 
other, the Signoria, or manor place, which 
is a kind of vestibule to a royal residence. It 
is enclosed by houses of the country's great 



5 

PISA: Cathedral Square 

a. Saint-Jean b. Cathedral 

c. Campanile d. Campo Santo (Cemetery) 

and adorned with monuments. Sometimes 
we see there a loggia, or open gallery, used 
by a military guard, or a high terrace from 
which laws and public statements were 
promulgated. The Signoria of Florence (Fig- 
ure 6) is the finest example of this. The mar- 
ket square, rarely lacking even in cities of 


8 



northern Europe, is the meeting place of the 
citizens. There stand the City Hall and the 
more or less richly decorated traditional 
fountain, the sole vestige of the past that 
has been conserved since the lively activity 
of merchants and traders has been moved 
within to iron cages and glass market 
places. 


The important function of the public 
square in the community life of past ages 
is evident. The period of the Renaissance 
saw the birth of masterpieces in the manner 
of the Acropolis of Athens, where every- 
thing concurred to produce a finished artis- 
tic effect. The cathedral place at Pisa, an 
Acropolis of Pisa, (Figure 5) is the proof of 


Buildings, Monuments, and Public Squares 

this. It includes everything that the people 
of the City have been able to create in 
building religious edifices of unparalleled 
richness and grandeur. The splendid cathe- 
dral, the campanile, the baptistry, the in- 
comparable Campo-Santo are not depre- 
ciated by profane or banal surroundings of 
any kind. The effect produced by such a 


place, removed from the world of baseness 
while rich in the noblest works of the human 
spirit, is overpowering. Even those with a 
poorly developed sensitiveness to art are 
unable to escape the power of this impres- 
sion. There is nothing there to distract our 
thoughts or to intrude our daily affairs. The 
esthetic enjoyment of those who look upon 



6 

FLORENCE, Piazza of the Signoria 


9 




The Art of Building Cities 


the noble fagade of the Cathedral is not 
spoiled by the sight of a modern haber- 
dashery, by the cries of drivers and porters, 
or by the tumult of a cafe. Peace reigns over 
the place. It is thus possible to give full at- 
tention to the art work assembled there. 

This situation is almost unique, al- 
though that of Saint Francis of Assissi and 
the arrangement of the Certosa de Pavia 
closely approach it. In general, the modern 
period does not encourage the formation 
of such perfect groupings. Cities, even in 
the fatherland of art, undergo the fate of 
palaces and dwellings. They no longer 
hove distinct character. They present a mix- 
ture of motifs borrowed as much from the 
architecture of the north as from that of the 
southern countries. Ideas and tastes have 
been mingled as the people themselves 
hove been interchanged. Local characteris- 
tics are gradually disappearing. The market 
place alone, with its City Hall and fountain, 
has here and there remained intact. 

In passing we should like to remark 
that our intention is not to suggest a sterile 
imitation of the beauties spoken of as "pic- 
turesque" in the ancient cities for our pres- 
ent needs. The proverb, "Necessity breaks 
even iron," is fully applicable here. Changes 
made necessary by hygiene or other re- 
quirements must be carried out, even if the 
picturesque suffers from it. But that does not 
prevent us from examining the work of our 
forebears at close range to determine how 
much of it may be adapted to modern con- 
ditions. In this way alone can we resolve the 


esthetic part of the practical problem of city 
building, and determine what can be saved 
from the heritage of our ancestors. 

Before determining the question in a 
positive manner, we state the principle that 
during the Middle Ages and Renaissance 
public squares were often used for practical 
purposes, and that they formed an entirety 
with the buildings which enclosed them. To- 
day they serve at best as places for station- 
ing vehicles, and they have no relation to 
the buildings which dominate them. Our 
parliament buildings have no agora en- 
closed by columns. Our universities and 
cathedrals have lost their atmosphere of 
peace. Surging throngs no longer circulate 
on market days before our City Halls. In 
brief, activity is lacking precisely in those 
places where, in ancient times, it was most 
intense — near public structures. Thus, to a 
great extent, we have lost that which con- 
tributed to the splendor of public squares. 

And the fabric of their very splendor, 
the numerous statues, is almost entirely 
lacking today. What have we to compare to 
the richness of ancient forums and to works 
of majestic style like the Signoria of Flor- 
ence and its Loggia dei Lanzi? 

A few years ago there flourished at 
Vienna a remarkable school of sculpture 
whose works of merit cannot be scorned. 
They were generally used to adorn build- 
ings. In only a few exceptional cases were 
their works used in public squares. Statues 
adorn the two museums, the palace of Par- 
liament, the two Court theaters, the City 


10 



Buildings, Monuments, and Public Squares 


Hall, the new university, the Votive Church. 
But there is no interest in adorning public 
open spaces. And that is true not only in 
Vienna, but nearly everywhere. 

Buildings lay claim to so many stat- 
ues that commissions are needed to find 
new subjects to be represented. It is often 
necessary to wait for years to find a suitable 
place for a statue although many appro- 
priate places remain empty in the mean- 
time. After long efforts we have reconciled 
ourselves to modern public squares as vast 
as they are deserted, and the monument, 
without a place of refuge, becomes stranded 
on some small and ancient space. That is 
even more strange, yet true. After much 
groping about, this fortunate result occurs, 
for it is thus that a work of art derives its 
value and produces a more powerful im- 
pression. Indifferent artists who neglect to 
provide for such effects must bear the entire 
responsibility of it. 

The story of Michelangelo's David at 
Florence shows how inistakes of this kind 
are perpetrated in modern times. This 
gigantic marble statue stands close to the 
walls of the Palazzo Vecchio, to the left of its 
principal entrance, in the exact place chosen 
by Michelangelo. The idea of erecting a 
statue on this place of ordinary appearance 
would have appeared to moderns as absurd 
if not insane. Michelangelo chose it, how- 
ever, and without doubt deliberately; for all 
those who have seen the masterpiece in this 
place testify to the extraordinary impres- 
sion that it makes. In contrast to the relative 


scantiness of the place, affording an easy 
comparison with human stature, the enor- 
mous statue seems to swell even beyond its 
actual dimensions. The sombre and uni- 
form, but powerful, walls of the palace pro- 
vide a background on which we could not 
wish to improve to make all the lines of the 
figure stand out. 

Today the David is moved int® one of the 
academy's halls under a glass cupola in the 
midst of plaster reproductions, photographs, 
and engravings. It serves as a model for 
study and an object of research for his- 
torians and critics. A special mental prep- 
aration is needed now to resist the morbid 
influences of an art prison that we call a 
museum, and to have the ability to enjoy 
the imposing work. Moreover, the spirit of 
the times, which believed that it was per- 
fecting art, and which was still not satisfied 
with this innovation, had a bronze cast 
made of the David in its original grandeur 
and put it up on a vast plaza (naturally in 
its mathematical center) far from Florence- 
at the Via dei Colli. It has a superb horizon 
before it; behind it, cafes; on one side, a 
carriage station, a corso; and from all sides 
the murmurs of Baedeker readers ascend to 
it. In this setting the statue produces no ef- 
fect at all. The opinion that its dimensions 
do not exceed human stature is often heard. 
Michelangelo thus understood best the kind 
of placement that would be suitable for his 
work, and, in general, the ancients were 
abler than we are in these matters. 

The fundamental difference between 


11 



The Art of Building Cities 


the procedures of former times and those of 
today rests in the fact that we constantly 
seek the largest possible space for each lit- 
tle statue. Thus we diminish the effect that 
it could produce, instead of augmenting it 
with the assistance of a neutral background 
such as painters have used in their portraits. 

This explains why the ancients 
erected their monuments by the sides of 
public places, as is shown in the view of the 
Signoria of Florence. In this way, the num- 


ber of statues could increase indefinitely 
without obstructing the circulation of traf- 
fic, and each of them had a fortunate back- 
ground. Contrary to this, we hold the mid- 
dle of a public place as the sole spot worthy 
to receive a monument. Thus no esplanade, 
however magnificent, can have more than 
one. If by misfortune it is irregular and if its 
center cannot be located geometrically we 
become confused and allow the space to 
remain empty for eternity. 


12 



II 


Open Centers of Public Places 


T is instructive to study the manner in 
which the ancients located their foun- 
. tains and monuments and to see how 
they were always able to make use of the 
conditions at hand. Ancient principles of art 
were applied anew in the Middle Ages, al- 
though less obviously. Only blindness can 
escape the observation that the Romans 
left the center of their forum free. Even in 
Vitruvius we may read that the center of a 
public place is destined not for statues but 
for gladiators. This guestion calls for a more 
attentive study of the following epochs. 

In the Middle Ages the choice of 
placing fountains and statues together in 
many cases defies all definition. Some of 
the strangest arrangements were adopted. 
It is always necessary to recognize that, as 
for Michelangelo's David, this choice was 
guided by a fine sense for art, for the statue 
always harmonized admirably with its sur- 
roundings. Thus we face an enigma, the 
enigma of a natural art sense which, among 
the old masters, wrought miracles without 
the assistance of any esthetic rules. Modern 
technicians, who have succeeded them, 
armed with T-squares and compasses, have 
pretended to make fine decisions of taste 
through the coarseness of geometry. 

Sometimes it is possible to catch a 


glimpse of the creative methods of our fore- 
bears and to find words that can explain the 
patterns of the successful effects that they 
attained. But since particular examples can 
vary so widely it seems difficult to wrest a 
general principle from the known facts. We 
shall try to see clearly in this apparent con- 
fusion, however, for our innate feeling has 
been lost for a long time. We con no longer 
get good results without deliberate inten- 
tion. If, then, we wish to rediscover the free 
inventiveness of the old masters and react 
against the inflexible geometrical princi- 
ples of their successors, we must make on 
effort to follow the paths over which our 
ancestors went by instinct in ages that had 
a traditional esteem for art. 

The subject of this chapter seems 
narrowly limited. Nevertheless, it is difficult 
to cover it in a few words. An example taken 
from everyday life which we hope is not 
shocking in its apparent triviality will make 
a useful substitute for an involved definition. 

It is remarkable how children, work- 
ing with no direction except their artistic 
instinct, often achieve the same results as 
primitive peoples in their crude designs. It 
may be surprising to say that one of their 
favorite games can teach us the principles 
of good monument location. As a matter of 


13 



The Art of Building Cities 


fact, the snowmen with which they amuse 
themselves in the winter are located in 
exactly the same manner as fountains and 
monuments were according to ancient prac- 
tices. The explanation is quite simple. Con- 
sider the snow covered plaza of a town. 




Here and there are snow paths— natural 
thoroughfares. There are large blocks of 
snow irregularly located between them, 
and the snowmen are built on these, for 
that is where the substance of which they 
are made is found. 

It was at such points, similarly dis- 
persed from traffic, that the ancient com- 
munities set up their fountains and monu- 
ments. It may be observed from old engrav- 
ings that in ancient times the public places 
were not paved, nor even graded, but were 
furrowed in paths and gutters, as may still 
be seen in certain villages. If the building of 
a fountain were desired, it obviously would 
not be located on a thoroughfare, but rather 
on one of the island-like plots separated 
from traffic. When, with an increase in 
wealth, the community grew little by little, 
it had its public places graded and paved, 
but the fountain did not change its position. 


When it was desired to replace it by a simi- 
lar, but more elaborate, structure, the new 
one was put up on the same spot. 

Thus, each of these sites had its his- 
torical importance, and this explains why 
fountains and monuments are not located 
at places of intense traffic use, nor at the 
center of public places, nor on the axis of a 
monumental portal, but by preference to 
the side, even in the northern countries 
where Latin traditions have not had a direct 
influence. This also explains why in each 
city and in each public place the arrange- 
ment of monuments is different, for in each 
case streets open onto the square differ- 
ently; traffic follows a different direction 
and leaves other points free. In short, the 
historical development of the public square 
varies according to the locality. It some- 
times happens that the center of a public 



place is selected for the placement of a 
statue, but this practice, preferred by mod- 
ern architects, was never established as a 
principle by the ancients. 

They were not given to the excessive 
use of symmetry, for their fountains were 


14 



open Centers of Public Places 


built most frequently near the angle of a 
public square, where the principal street 
opened and where draft animals were 
brought for watering. The beautiful foun- 
tain of Nuremberg (Figure 1) is a celebrated 



example of this. So also is the fountain of 
Rothenburg on the Tauber (Figure 8). 

In Italy, in front of the Palazzo Vec- 
chio, on the Signoria of Florence, before the 
Palazzo Communale at Perugia, at the Pal- 
azzo Farnese in Rome, statues are located 
at the sides of streets and not on the axis of 
the principal structure of the public square. 
In France the fountain of Saint-Lazare at 
Autun (Figure 9) and the Fountain of the 
Innocents at Paris occupied the angle 
formed by the Rue aux Fers and the Rue 
Saint-Denis before 1786, instead of being 
aligned in the middle of the public square. 

The location of the equestrian statue 
of Gattamelata by Donatello (Figure 10) in 
front of Saint Anthony of Padua is most in- 
structive. First we may be astonished at its 
great variance from our rigid modern sys- 
tem, but it is quickly and strikingly seen that 
the monument in this place produces a 


majestic effect. Finally we become con- 
vinced that removed to the center of the 
square its effect would be greatly dimin- 
ished. We cease to wonder at its orientation 
and other locational advantages once this 
principle becomes familiar. 

[Thus to the ancient rule that pre- 
scribes the location of monuments at the 
edges of public squares may be added the 
principle followed during the Middle Ages, 
especially in cities of the north, according to 
which monuments and fountains were 
erected at points segregated from traffic. 
Now and then the two principles are put 
into practice simultaneously. They avoid 
common obstacles in seeking masterly ar- 
tistic effects. Sometimes practical needs co- 

10 

PADUA: 

Piazza del Santo 

a. Column 

b. Statue of 

Gattamelata 


incide with artistic requisites, and this is 
understandable, for a traffic obstacle may 
also interfere with a good view. The loca- 
tion of monuments on the axes of monu- 
mental buildings or richly adorned portals 
should be avoided for it conceals worth- 
while architecture from the eyes; and, re- 





15 


The Art of Building Cities 


ciprocally, an excessively rich and ornate 
background is not appropriate for a monu- 
ment. The ancient Egyptians understood 
this principle, for as Gattamelata and the 
little column stand beside the entrance to 
the Cathedral of Padua, the obelisks and 
the statues of the Pharaohs are aligned be- 
side the temple doors. There is the entire 
secret that we refuse to decipher toda^Q 
The principle that we have just de- 
duced applies not only to monuments and 
fountains, but to every type of construction, 
and especially to churches. Churches, 


11 

PADUA: 
S. Giustina 


which almost without exception occupy the 
center area of large sites, were not so lo- 
cated in former times. In Italy they are 
always set back with one or more sides 
against other buildings with which they 
form groups of open places that we shall 
now discuss. 

The churches of Padua are classics in 
this respect. Only one side of San Giustina 
(Figme 11) is set back against other build- 
ings. Two sides of San Antonio and the Car- 
mine are so set back, while all of one side 



with half of a second of the Jesuit church are 
so backed up. The bordering open space is 
guite irregular. 

This is also to be seen at Verona 
where a further tendency to preserve a 
square of great dimensions before the prin- 

12 

VERONA: 

Cathedral Square 

cipal entrance to the church (Figure 12) is 
observed; as in front of S. Fermo Maggiore 
(Figure 13), S. Anastasia (Figure 14), and 
others. Each of these places has its particu- 
lar history and creates a vivid impression. 
The facades and portals of the churches 
which dominate them assume their full 
splendor. We rarely find an open place ex- 
tending from the side of a church, as at 
S. Cita in Palermo (Figure 15). 

These few examples, in striking con- 
trast to modern practices, are convincing 
enough to lead us into further study. 



13 

VERONA: 

S. Fermo Maggiore 



No city could serve as a better sub- 
ject for this study than Rome with its numer- 
ous religious edifices. A study of them from 
the point of view of location yields a sur- 
prising result. Of the 255 churches, 41 are set 


16 



Open Centers of Public Places 

back with one side against other buildings; 
96 with two sides against other buildings; 
1 10 with three sides against other buildings; 
2 set in with four sides to other buildings; 
and 6 stand free of other buildings. 



It should be said that among the last 
six mentioned there are two modern build- 
ings, the Protestant and Anglican chapels, 
and that the four others are surrounded by 
narrow streets. This is equally contrary to 
the modern practice which superimposes 
the center of the church upon the center of 
the site. We can definitely conclude that in 



Rome churches are never entirely free 
standing, and the same may be said of all 
Italy, for the principle is in use just as much 
in Pavia as in Venice, where only the Cathe- 
dral stands free on all sides; Cremona; 
Milan (with the exception of the Cathedral); 
Reggio (including the Cathedral here); Fer- 


are; and many other places. The type seen 
in Lucca (Figure 16) and Vicenza (Figure 17) 
recalls the principles that we deduced on 
the subject of locating monuments. It is even 



more appropriate for monumental build- 
ings to be situated on the sides of public 
squares of average spaciousness, for in that 
way alone can they be best utilized and 
looked at from a convenient distance. 


17 

VICENZA 



The case of the Cathedral of Brescia 
(Figure 18) is quite singular, but it is no ex- 
ception to the rule, for the fagade of the 
Cathedral serves as an enclosure for the 
open place. All of these observations indi- 
cate clearly that our modern systems are in 
direct opposition to established principles 


17 


The Art of Building Cities 


that were conscientiously observed in past 
epochs. We think it is impossible to place a 
new church anywhere except in the center 
of the site destined for it so that it will stand 
free on all sides, although this procedure is 
inconvenient and has few advantages. It 
detracts from the structure' itself, for its 
potential effect cannot be concentrated but 
is scattered evenly around its circumfer- 
ence. Moreover, every organic relationship 
between the open place and its enclosure is 
made impossible, as all perspective effects 
require sufficient withdrawal. A cathedral 



18 

BRESCIA: 

Cathedral Square 
showing old and 
new Cathedrals 


requires a foreground to set off the majesty 
of its fagade. 

Location of a church in the middle of 
a site cannot even be defended in the name 
of the builder's interest, for it obliges him 
to extend, at great expense, all of the archi- 
tectural features around the broad fagades, 
the cornices, pedestals, and so on. In put- 
ting the building back with one or two sides 
against other buildings, the architect is 
spared all this expense, the free walls can 
be built of marble throughout, and there 
will still remain sufficient funds to embel- 


lish them with statues. Thus we should not 
have these monotonous side faces running 
continuously around the building, the per- 
fection of which cannot be appreciated 
from a single viewpoint. Furthermore, is it 
not often of advantage for a church to be 
joined to other buildings (cloisters or par- 
sonages) in winter and bad weather? Be- 
sides, it is not only the building itself, but the 
public square as well, which suffers from 
the modern arrangement. Its name of place, 
square, or plaza is no longer any more than 
irony, for it is seldom more than a slightly 
widened street. 

In spite of all these inconveniences, 
and in spite of all the precepts of the his- 
tory of ecclesiastical architecture, modern 
churches are located throughout the world 
almost without exception in the center of 
their sites. We have lost all discernment. 

Theaters, city halls, and numerous 
other structures are also victims of this er- 
roneous conception. Perhaps we hopefully 
believe in the possibility of seeing all sides 
of a building at once, or it may be thought 
that an interesting building is especially 
distinguished if its walls stand entirely 
free. Nobody imagines that putting a void 
around a building prevents it from forming, 
with its environs, various diverse scenes. 
The lordly square masses of the Florentine 
palaces present a picturesque appearance 
when seen from the adjacent narrow pas- 
sages. In this way these buildings acquire a 
double worth, for they present different 
appearances from the piazza and the vicolo. 


18 


Open Centers of Public Places 


Modern taste is not satisfied with 
locating its own creations in the most un- 
favorable manner. It must also improve the 
works of the old masters by tearing them 
away from their surroundings. It does not 
hesitate to do so even when it is obvious 
that they have been designed to harmonize 
with the neighboring buildings, without 
which they would lose their worth. When a 
work of art is put in a place other than the 
one selected for it, part of its essential qual- 
ity is taken away, and a great wrong is done 
to the artist who conceived it. 

Performances of this kind are not 
rare. This rage for isolating everything is 


truly a modern sickness. R. Baumeister in 
his manual on city building even raises this 
to the status of a working principle. He 
writes, "Old buildings ought to be pre- 
served, but we must, so to speak, peel them 
and preserve them." The object of this, then, 
is that by the transformation of surround- 
ings the old buildings should be led to the 
midst of public places and in the axes of 
streets. This procedure is used everywhere 
and with special satisfaction in treating 
ancient city entrance portals. It is indeed a 
fine thing to have an isolated city gateway 
around which we may stroll instead of pass- 
ing under its arches! 


19 



The Enclosed Character 
of the Public Square 


■^HE old practice of setting churches 
and palaces back against other 
. buildings brings to mind the ancient 
forum and its unbroken frame of public 
buildings. In examining the public squares 
that came into being during the Middle 
Ages and the Renaissance, especially in 
Italy, it is seen that this pattern has been 
retained for ages by tradition. The old plazas 
produce a collective harmonious effect be- 
cause they are uniformly enclosed. In fact, 
the public square owes its name to this char- 
acteristic in an expanse at the center of a 
city. It is true that we now use the term to 
indicate any parcel of land bounded by 
four streets on which all construction has 
been renounced. 

That can satisfy the public health 
officer and the technician, but for the artist 
these few acres of ground are not yet a pub- 
lic square. Many things must be done to 
embellish the area to give it character and 
importance. For just as there are furnished 
and unfurnished rooms, we could speak of 
complete and incomplete squares. The es- 
sential thing of both room and square is the 
quality of enclosed space. It is the most es- 
sential condition of any artistic effect, al- 


though it is ignored by those who are now 
elaborating on city plans. 

The ancients, on the contrary, em- 
ployed the most diverse methods of fulfill- 
ing this condition under the most diverse 
circumstances. They were, it is true, sup- 
ported by tradition and favored by the usual 
narrowness of streets and less active traffic 
movement. But it is precisely in cases where 
these aids were lacking that their talent 
and artistic feeling is displayed most 
conspicuously. 

A few examples will assist in ac- 
counting for this. The following is the sim- 
plest. Directly facing a monumental build- 
ing a large gap was made in a mass of 
masonry, and the square thus created, com- 


19 

BRESCIA: 
San Giovanni 



pletely surrounded by buildings, produced 
a happy effect. Such is the Piazza S. Gio- 
vanni at Brescia (Figure 19). Often a second 
street opens on to a small square, in which 
case care is taken to avoid an excessive 


20 


The Enclosed Character of the Public Square 


breach in the border, so that the principal 
building will remain well enclosed. The 
methods used by the ancients to accom- 
plish this were so greatly varied that chance 
alone could not have guided them. Un- 
doubtedly they were often assisted by cir- 
cumstance, but they also knew how to use 
circumstances admirably. 

Today in such cases all obstructions 
would be taken down and large breaches 
in the border of the public place would be 
opened, as is done when we decide to "mod- 
ernize" a city. Ancient streets would be 
found to open on the square in a manner 
precisely contrary to the methods of modern 
city builders, and mere chance would not 
account for this. Today the practice is to 
join two streets that intersect at right angles 
at each corner of the square, probably to 
enlarge as much as possible the opening 
made in the enclosure and to destroy every 
impression of cohesion. Formerly the pro- 
cedure was entirely different. There was on 
effort to have only one street at each angle 
of the square. If a second artery was needed 
in a direction at right angles to the first, it 
was designed to terminate at a sufficient 
distance from the square to remain out of 
view from the square. And better still, the 
three or four streets which came in at the 
corners each ran in a different direction. 
This interesting arrangement was repro- 
duced so frequently, and more or less com- 
pletely, that it can be considered as one of 
the conscious or subconscious principles of 
ancient city building. 


Careful study shows that there ore 
many advantages to an arrangement of 
street openings in the form of turbine arms. 
From any part of the square there is but one 
exit on the streets opening into it, and the 
enclosure of buildings is not broken. It even 


.20 

PARMA: 

a. Pal. del Commune 

b. Madonna della Steccata 

c. Pal. della Podesteria 

I. Piazza d. Steccata 

II. Piazza Grande 


seems to enclose the square completely, for 
the buildings set at an angle conceal each 
other, thanks to perspective, and unsightly 
impressions which might be made by open 
ings are avoided. The secret of this is in 
having streets enter the square at right 
angles to the visual lines instead of parallel 
to them. Joiners and carpenters hove fol- 



21 

RAVENNA: 
Cathedral Square 



lowed this principle since the Middle Ages 
when, with subtle art, they sought to moke 


21 


The Art of Building Cities 


joints of wood and stone inconspicuous if 
not invisible. 

The Cathedral Square at Ravenna 
(Figme 21) shows the purest type of the 
arrangement just described. The square of 
Pistoia (Figure 22) is in the same manner; as 
is the Piazza S. Pietro at Mantua (Figure 23), 
and the Piazza Grande at Parma (Figure 20). 
It is a little more difficult to recognize the 



22 

PISTOIA: 
Cathedral Square 

a. Cathedral 

b. Bapistry 

c. Residence 

d. Palais de la Commune 

e. Palais du Podestat 


principle in the Signoria of Florence (Figure 
24). The principal streets conform to the rule. 
The narrow strip of land of about a yard's 
width (at the side of the Loggia dei Lanzi) is 
much less noticeable in reality than it is on 
the map. 

The ancients had recourse to still 
other means of closing in their squares. 
Often they broke the infinite perspective of 
a street by a monumental portal or by sev- 
eral arcades of which the size and number 
were determined by the intensity of traffic 
circulation. This splendid architectural pat- 
tern has almost entirely disappeared, or, 
more accurately, it has been suppressed. 
Again Florence gives us one of the best 
examples in the portico of the Uffizi with its 
view of the Arno in the distance. Every Ital- 


ian city of average importance has its por- 
tico, and this is also true north of the Alps. 
We mention only the Langasser Thor at 
Danzig, the entrance portal of the City Hall 
and Chancellery at Bruges, the Kerkboog 
at Nimeguen, the great Bell Tower at Rouen, 
the monumental Portals of Nancy, and the 
windows of the Louvre. 

More or less ornate portals like those 
that simply but effectively frame the Piazza 
dei Signoria at Verona (Figure 25) are to be 
found in all the royal residences, in the 
chateaux and city halls, and they are used 
as much for vehicular traffic as by pedes- 
trians. While ancient architects used this 
pattern wherever possible with infinite 
variations, our modern builders seem to 
ignore its existence. Let us recall, to demon- 
strate again the persistence of ancient tradi- 



23 

MANTUA: Piazza S. Pietro 

a. S. Pietro b. Pal. Reale 
c. P. Vescovile 

tions, that at Pompeii, too, there is an Arc de 
Triomphe at the entrance to the Forum. 

Columns were used with porticos to 
form enclosures for public squares. Saint 
Peter's in Rome is the best example of this. 
In more modest proportions there is the 


22 



The Enclosed Character of the Public Square 


hemicycle of the Place de la Carrike at 
Nancy. Sometimes portico and columns ore 
combined as in the Cathedral Square at 
Salzburg. At S. Maria Novella in Florence 
the colonnade is replaced by a wall of rich 
architectural embellishment. At times pub- 
lic squares are completely surrounded by 



high walls opened by simple or monumen- 
tal portals, as at the ancient episcopal resi- 
dence of Bamberg (1591), at the City Hall of 


Altenbourg (1562-1564), at the old university 
of Fribourg-en-Brusgau, and other places. 
Arcades were used to embellish 
monumental buildings more frequently in 
former times than at present, either on the 
higher stories, as in the City Halls of Halle 
(1548) and Cologne (1568), or on the ground 
level. Among the numerous examples, we 
call attention to arcades of the city halls of 
Paderborn, Ypres (1.621-1622), Amsterdam, 
Liibeck, the Cloth Market at Brunswick, the 
City Hall at Brigue; arcades of market 
places, as at Munster and Bologna, or like 
the Portico dei Servi in the latter City. Let us 
recall also the beautiful portico of the Pal- 
azzo Podesta at Bologna, and at Brescia the 
superb arcade of Monte Vecchio, the fine 




The Art of Building Cities 


loggias of Udine and of San Annunziata at 
Florence. And finally, the arcade pattern 
was used in a thousand ways in the archi- 
tecture of courts, cloisters, and cemeteries. 

All of these above mentioned archi- 
tectural forms in former times made up 
a complete system of enclosing public 


squares. Today there is a contrary tendency 
to open them on all sides. It is easy to de- 
scribe the results that have come about. It 
has tended to destroy completely the old 
public squares. Wherever these openings 
have been made the cohesive effect of the 
square has been completely nullified. 


24 



IV 


The Form and Expanse 
of Public Squares 

W E can distinguish between two arranged to produce their best effect in a 
kinds of public squares, those of given direction.Wereadilyseethatasquare 
depth and those of expanse. This having depth makes a favorable impres- 
classification has only a relative value, sion only when the dominant building is of 
however, because it depends on the posi- rather slender form, as is the case with most 
tion of the observer and the direction in churches. If the square extends from a 
which he is looking. Thus, one square could building of exceptional breadth its contours 
have both forms at the same time, depend- should be modified accordingly, 
ing upon the observer s position with re- If, then, church squares should gen- 

spect to a building, at the principal side or erally be deep, the squares of city halls 
at one of the lesser sides of the square. In ought to be expansive. The position of mon- 
general, the character of a square is deter- uments in either case should be determined 
mined by one building of special impor- by the form of the public square. The Piazza 
fctiice. Reale at Modena (Figure 27 ) is an example 

3 

26 

FLORENCE 
S. Croce 

For example, the Piazza di S. Croce of a well arranged expansive square, in 
at Florence (Figure 26 ) is rather deep, be- form as well as in dimensions. The adjoin- 
cause it is usually looked at while facing the ing Piazza di S. Dominico is deep. Moreover, 
church. Its bulk and its monuments are the manner in which the different streets 




27 

MODENA: 


I. Piazza Heale 11. P. di S. Dominico 


25 



The Art of Building Cities 


open into the square is noteworthy. Every- 
thing is arranged to present a perfect set- 
ting. The street in front of the church does 
not detract from the general effect by break- 
ing the enclosure, since it runs perpendicu- 
larly to the direction of the observer's view. 
Neither do the two streets opening in the 
direction of the fagade have a disturbing 
effect, for the observer turns his back on 
them in looking at the church. The project- 
ing left wing of the chateau is not the work 
of pure chance. It serves to confine the view 
within the church square and to moke a defi- 
nite separation between the two squares. 

The contrast between these two ad- 
joining squares is striking. The effect of one 
is intensified by the opposing effect of the 
other. One is large, the other small; one 
expansive, the other deep; one is domi- 
nated by a palace, the other by a church. 

It is truly a delight for the sensitive 
observer to analyze such a plan and to find 
the explanation for its wonderful effect. 
Like all true works of art, it continually re- 
veals new beauties and further reason for 
admiring the methods and the resourceful- 
ness of the ancient city builders. They had 
frequent occasion to find answers to diffi- 
cult problems, for they took full account of 
contemporary necessities. That is why we 
seldom find "pure types" in their work, 
which developed slowly with the inspira- 
tion of a sound tradition. 

It is difficult to determine the exact 
relationship that ought to exist between the 
magnitude of a square and the buildings 
which enclose it, but clearly it should be 


an harmonious balance. An excessively 
small square is worthless for a monumental 
structure. A square that is too big is even 
worse, for it will have the effect of reducing 
its dimensions, however colossal they may 
actually be. This has been observed thou- 
sands of times at Saint Peter's in Rome. 

It is a delusion to think that the feel- 
ing of magnitude created by a square in- 
creases indefinitely with extensions of its 
size. We have already learned by experi- 
ence in some places that continual expan- 
sion does not produce proportionate in- 
creases in impressiveness. It has been ob- 
served that the intensity of sound produced 
by a men's choir is increased at once by 
voices that are added to it, but there is a 
point at which the maximum effect is 
reached and at which the addition of more 
singers ceases to improve it. (This point is 
reached with 400 singers). This seems to be 
applicable to the impression of magnitude 
that can be created by certain public 
squares. If a narrow strip of a few yards is 
added to a small square the result is quite 
sensible and usually advantageous, but if 
the square is already large this increase is 
scarcely noticed, for the relative propor- 
tions of square and surrounding buildings 
remain about the same. Great esplanades 
are no longer found in modern cities except 
in the form of recreational areas. They can 
scarcely be considered as forming public 
squares since the buildings around them 
are like country houses in the open, or like 
villages seen from a distance. 


26 



The Form and Expanse of Public Squares 

Some places of this type are the 
Champ de Mars at Paris, the Campo di 
Marte at Venice, the Piazza d'Armi at 
Trieste, and the Piazza d'Armi at Turin. Al- 
though they do not come within the scope 
of our study, we mention them here because 
they have frequently been copied in the 
interior of cities with badly proportioned 
dimensions. Great buildings around them 
are reduced in appearance to ordinary 
rank, for in architecture the relationship of 
proportion plays a greater role than abso- 
lute size. Statues of dwarfs that are six feet 
or more in height may be seen in public 
gardens. They stand in contrast to statu- 
ettes of Hercules of Tom Thumb size. Thus 
the greatest of the gods is made a dwarf, 
and the smallest of men becomes heroic. 

The person who is interested in city 
building should study the dimensions of 
some of the smaller squares and of a large 
square of his own city. It will convince him 
that the feeling of magnitude that they pro- 
duce is often out of proportion to their actual 
dimensions. Above all it is important to 
achieve good relative proportion between 
the dimensions of a square and the enclos- 
ing buildings. This relationship, like all pre- 
cepts of art, is difficult to establish precisely, 
for it must frequently submit to wide varia- 
tions. A glance at the map of any great city 
demonstrates this. It is much easier to deter- 
mine the proportions of a column and its 
entablature. It would be desirable to deter- 
mine the relationship within a definite ap- 
proximation, especially now when plans for 


city expansion are dashed off according to 
the whims of the draftsman and not grad- 
ually in accordance with the needs of the 
time. To assist in solving this important 
problem we have prepared the plans which 
accompany this study as far as possible on 
a common scale. It will be asserted that the 
variety of methods employed in past ages 
indicates almost arbitrary practice. How- 
ever, it is possible to draw from an exami- 
nation of them the following principles, 
which, in spite of platitudinous appearance, 
are far from being observed today. 

1. The principal squares of large cities 
are larger than those of small cities. 

2. In each city some principal public 
squares have expansive dimensions, 
while others must remain within con- 
fined limits. 

3. The dimensions of public squares also 
depend on the importance of the prin- 
cipal buildings which dominate them; 
or, put another way, the height of the 
principal building, measured from the 
ground to the cornice, should be in 
proportion to the dimension of the 
public square measured perpendicu- 
larly in the direction of the principal 
fagade. In public squares of depth the 
height of the fagade of the church 
should be compared with the depth of 
the. square. In public squares of ex- 
panse the height of the fagade of the 
palace or public building should be 
compared with the breadth of the 
square. 


27 



The Art of Building Cities 


Experience shows that the minimum 
dimension of a square ought to be equal to 
the height of the principal building in it, and 
that its maximum dimension ought not to 
exceed twice that height unless the form, 
the purpose, and the design of the building 
will support greater dimensions. Buildings 
of medium height can be built on large pub- 
lic squares if, thanks to the few stories and 
massive architecture, they can be devel- 
oped better in breadth. 

It is also important to consider the 
relationship that should exist between the 
length and breadth of a public square. In 
this, exact rules are of little worth, for the 
problem is not one of obtaining a good re- 
sult on paper only but in reality as well. But 
the actual effect will depend largely on the 
position of the observer, and it may be said 
in passing that it is quite difficult to make 
accurate estimates of distance; and, too, we 
have but an imperfect perception of the 
relationship between length and breadth of 
a plaza. Let us say then only that public 
squares that are actually square are few in 
number and unattractive; that excessively 
elongated "squares" (where length is more 
than three times the width) have a scarcely 
better appearance. Expansive squares, in 
general, have much greater discrepancies 
between their two dimensions than squares 
which have depth. However, that depends 
on circumstances. The streets opening on to 
the square must also be considered. Narrow 
little streets of the old cities require squares 


of only modest dimensions, while today vast 
squares are needed to accommodate our 
streets of great width. Modern streets of 
medium width (from 50 to 100 feet) would 
have been wide enough in past ages to form 
one of the sides of a typical, well-enclosed 
church square. Of course, that would only 
have been made possible by clever design 
and by the narrow width of old streets (from 
GVz to 26 feet). What should be the dimen- 
sions of an adequate and well proportioned 
square, located on a street of from 150 to 
200 feet wide? The Ringstrasse at Vienna is 
186 feet wide; the Esplanade at Hamburg, 
150; the Linden at Berlin, 190. Such dimen- 
sions are not even attained by the Piazza di 
San Marco at Venice, and there is still the 
Avenue des Champs-Elysees at Paris which 
is 465 feet wide. The average dimensions of 
the great squares of the old cities are 465 
by 190 feet. 

There can be observed a modern 
nervous sickness, the fear of squares. Many 
people suffer from it. They become ill in 
crossing a wide square. Even great men 
moulded in bronze or sculptured in stone 
have been struck by this disease on their 
monumental pedestals. They prefer, as we 
have seen, to remain in the old small squares 
rather than venture into vast deserted 
spaces. How large should statues on large 
squares be? At least two or three times 
human stature. We have said that the fear 
of squares is an entirely modern malady, 
and understandably so, since the old, small 
squares gave a feeling of comfortable snug- 


28 



The Form and Expanse of Public Squares 

ness. It is only within our own memory that 
they have taken bn enormous proportions, 
for the impression of vastness that disturbs 
us surpasses actual magnitude. On the 
other hand, we quickly forget the large 
squares we have crossed, and the impres- 
sion of them that is retained in the memory 
keeps them of a size that nullifies their artis- 
tic worth. Their most unfortunate influence 
is brought to bear on the enclosing build- 
ings, which can never be large enough. 
Even if the architect exhausts every re- 


source of his art and heaps mass upon mass 
surpassing all previous performances, the 
effect never fulfills the artistic and material 
requirements of his medium. 

R. Baumeister, in the work previously 
referred to, criticizes expansive squares as 
having no hygienic value, as being sources 
of heat and dust, and as traffic obstructions. 
Nevertheless, we are surpassing ourselves 
today in planning such squares, and with a 
certain logic, for at least they correspond to 
our boundless streets. 



29 



The Irregularity of Ancient 
Public Squares 


p-rnECHNICIANS of today take more 
trouble than is necessary to create 
interminable rectangular streets and 
public squares of impeccable symmetry. 
These efforts seem misdirected to those who 
are interested in good city appearance. Our 
forebears had ideas on this subject quite 
different to ours. Here is some evidence of 
it: the Piazza dei Eremitani and the Piazza 
del Duomo at Padua (Figure 29), the Cathe- 
dral Square at Syracuse (Figure 31), and the 
Piazza S. Francesco at Palermo (Figure 30). 

29 

PADUA: 

Cathedral and 
Cathedral Square 

The typical irregularity of these old 
squares indicates their gradual historical 
development. We are rarely mistaken in 
attributing the existence of these windings 
to practical causes — the presence of a 
canal the lines of an old roadway, or the 
form of a building. Everyone knows from 
personal experience that these disruptions 
in symmetry are not unsightly. On the con- 
trary, they arouse our interest as much as 



they appear natural, and preserve a pic- 
turesque character. Few people, however, 
understand why irregularity can avoid giv- 
ing an unpleasant appearance. We must 
study a map to understand it. Any city can 

30 

PALERMO: 

Piazza S. Francesco 



offer a good example of this, for the eye is 
inclined to overlook slight irregularities and 
is incapable of evaluating angles. We are 
willing to see more regularity in forms than 
actually exists. 


31 

SYRACUSE: 

I. Piazza del Duomo 

II, Piazza Minerva 



Whoever studies a map of his own 
city can be convinced that violent irregu- 
larities, shown on the map, do not in the 
least seem to be striking irregularities when 
seen on the ground. The celebrated Piazza 


30 



Ancient Public Squares 


d'Erbe at Verona (Figure 32) is known to 
nearly everybody from engravings if not 
from experience, but undoubtedly there are 
few who have observed the irregular shape 



32 

VERONA: 

I. Piazza d'Erbe II. Piazza dei Signori 


of this square. That is not surprising, for 
nothing is more difficult than to recompose 
the plan of a place from a perspective view. 



and especially so from memory. While we 
are looking at an impressive sight it does 
not occur to us to analyze structural details. 


The difference between a graphic 
representation and an actual view of the 
Piazza S. Maria Novella at Florence (Figure 
33) is equally surprising. In fact, the square 
has five sides, but, in the memory of many 
travelers, it has only four. For on the ground 
only three sides of it can be seen at one time, 
and the angle formed by the two other sides 
is always behind the observer's back. Fur- 
thermore, we are easily mistaken in calculat- 



ing by sight the angle formed by these two 
sides. Perspective makes this calculation 
difficult even for engineers if they use only 
their eyes. This is truly a square of surprises, 
for in it we are subjected to so many varied 


31 



The Art of Building Cities 


optical illusions. It is a far cry indeed from 
the rigorous symmetry so dear to modern 
city builders. 

It is strange that the slightest irregu- 
larity in modem city plans upsets us, al- 
though those of ancient public squares do 
not have a displeasing appearance. In fact, 
their irregularities are such that they are 
seen only on paper. On the ground they 
escape us. The ancients did not conceive 
their plans on drawing boards. Their build- 
ings rose bit by bit in natura. Thus they were 
readily governed by that which struck the 
eye in reality. They did not stop to correct 


S. Pietio alle scale S. VigiJio 



V. d. Abbadia S. Maria 

di Provenzano 
34 

SIENNA 

defects in symmetry that were evident only 
on paper. The various squares of Sienna 
offer proof of this (Figure 34). 

In all of these examples we can 
clearly see the tendency to create squares 
having depth in front of church fagades 
to provide a good view for important build- 


ings. The observer facing the edifice can- 
not see the most irregular sides of the 
square, for his back is to them. Thus the 
square avoids an excessively broken ap- 
pearance and forms a well proportioned 
whole. 

We know how little symmetry and 
absolute geometrical regularity contributed 
to the picturesque beauty of medieval cas- 
tles. In spite of their tormented structures, 
these old castles achieved an harmonious 
impression because their architecture 
clearly explained what was in them. Each 
individual structural mass has a kind of 
counterbalance which assures an overall 
equilibrium, boldly conceived and com- 
posed of patterns that were varied but not 
confusing. There is much of this in the art 
of building cities. Here the liberty of the 
artist is a still greater factor, for the realm 
of applied artistic resources is much vaster, 
and the methods at his disposal are so 
numerous that they may all be used without 
infringing on each other. Why then should 
we be content with the stiff regularity, the 
useless symmetry, and the tiresome uni- 
formity of modern city plans? In parts of old 
country houses and in the architecture of 
castles we perceive a certain picturesque 
abandon. Why must the straightedge and 
the compass be the all powerful masters of 
city building? 

The notion of symmetry is propa- 
gating itself today like the spread of an epi- 
demic. The least cultivated are familiar 
with it, and each one feels called upon to 




32 




Ancient Public Squares 


have his say about the involved artistic mat- 
ters that concern the building of cities, for 
each thinks he has at his finger tips the 
single criterion— symmetry. Although this is 
a Greek word, its ancient meaning was 
quite different from its present meaning. 

The notion of identical figures to the 
right and left of an axis was not the basis of 
any theory in ancient times. Whoever has 
taken the trouble to search out the meaning 
of the word "symmetry" in Greek and Latin 
literature knows that it means something 
that cannot be expressed in a single word 
today. Even Vitruvius had to translate it by 
paraphrase. He says (1, 2, 4): Item symmetiia 
est ex ipsius opens membhs conveniens con- 
sensus ex paitibusque sepaiatis ad uni- 
versae figurae speciem latae paitis respon- 
sus.* That is why his terminology is always 
variable, except when he deliberately 
adopts the Greek term. At times he substi- 
tutes for it piopoitio, which is a little more 
exact interpretation, but he does not like to 
use this term for he says himself that sym- 
metry results from proportio quae graec 
ana/og/a dicitur** (III, 1, 1). In short, propor- 
tion and symmetry were the same to the 
ancients. The sole difference between the 
two is that in architecture proportion is sim- 
ply a relationship agreeable to the eye, like 
the relationship between the diameter and 
height of a column, while symmetry is the 

* Symmetry also is the appropriate harmony arising out of the 
details of the v/ork itself: the correspondence of each given detail 
among the separate details to the form of the design as a whole. 
(Granger Translation) 

** Proportion, which in Greek is called anaJogia. 


same relationship expressed in numbers. 
This meaning remained valid throughout 
the Middle Ages. 

When Gothic masters began to form 
architectural patterns and became more 
concerned with the axes of symmetry in the 
modern sense of the term, the notion of simi- 
larity of figures to the left and right of a prin- 
cipal line was established in theory. An 
ancient name, with its meaning altered, 
was given to this idea. Writers of the Renais- 
sance were using it in this sense. Since then, 
the axes of symmetry have become con- 
tinually more frequent in plans for build- 
ings, as they have in plans for cities. Aided 
by this alone, the modern architect under- 
takes to perform all the tasks that are thrust 
on him. Our self-styled esthetic principles of 
building are at hand to prove the deficiency 
of this unfortunate principle. Everybody in- 
sists that a rule governing the building of 
cities cannot completely ignore the laws of 
beauty, but, since the problem is one of 
moving from theory to practice, initial en- 
thusiasm gives way to utter confusion. The 
mouse brought forth by the mountain is uni- 
versal, inevitable, indisputable, essential 
symmetry! Thus a syrupy law of 1864 sought 
to satisfy the artistic requirements of the 
country by enjoining the architects to avoid 
everything that "could offend symmetry 
and morality" in the design of facades. It 
remains to be learned which of the two 
offenses was considered the graver. 

In modern cities irregularity in plan 
is unsuccessful because it has been created 


33 



The Art of Building Cities 


artificially with the straightedge. It most 
often takes the form of triangular public 
places — the fatal dregs of drawing board 
plotting. They nearly always have a bad 
effect. There is no illusion to the eye, for the 
clashing intersection of building lines are 
always in view. The sole means of remedy- 
ing the defects of such places would be to 
make each side irregular in itself. That 
would bring about numerous recesses, par- 
tially symmetrical, and open spaces re- 
moved from traffic where monuments and 
statues might be advantageously situated. 
Unfortunately, that is impossible today, for 


since each of the three sides of a triangular 
"square" is rigorously straight, all efforts 
toward pleasing treatment are in vain. 
From this springs the legend of regular and 
irregular squares which holds that the first 
class are beautiful and suitable for monu- 
ments located, it is needless to say, in the 
geometrical center. If we limit ourselves to 
modern squares, this assertion is true, but 
when we begin to examine those of past 
epochs we see that irregular squares can be 
more readily adorned with statues and 
monuments, for they do not lack suitable 
places for them. 


34 



VI 


Groups of Public Squares 


W E have already had occasion in 
our study to compare two squares 
located close together, and our 
illustrations have shown numerous other 
examples of similar groupings. They are so 
frequent, especially in Italy, that cities hav- 
ing the principal buildings grouped about a 
single square are rather exceptional. This 
is a result of the old practice of closing the 
frame of the square and setting churches 
and palaces back against other buildings. 

Let us study the plan of Modena/fig- 
ure 35 ). The Piazza Grande is evidently in- 
tended to set off the lateral fagade of the 
church. It is also of rather elongated shape 
and extends beyond the vault. This might 
be expressed theoretically by saying that a 
fagade square and a vault square are 
joined together. The squares I and II ore, on 
the contrary, quite distinct from each other. 
The Piazza Grande makes a complete en- 
tity by itself, and the Pi^za Torre likewise 
has its individual character. Its purpose is 
to open up a perspective on the church 
tower, which thus produces its entire effect. 
Moreover, Square I, which commands the 
principal fagade, is deep, conforming to the 
rule. The street opening there in the direc- 
tion of the portal does not interfere with the 
harmony of the whole. At' Lucca the Piazza 


Grande and the double square at the Cathe- 
dral, with one port in front of the church 
and the other at its side, establish a com- 
parable rule. These examples, which could 
be multiplied indefinitely, demonstrate that 
the different fagades of buildings have de- 



termined the form of the corresponding pub- 
lic squares in order to produce a fine work. 
In fact, it is not likely that two or three 
squares would have been created unless 
the varjpus fagades of a church could be 
readily adapted to it afterward. In any case, 
it is certain that this combination brings out 
all the beauties of a monumental building. 
We can scarcely ask for more than three 
squares and three different views, each 
forming an harmonious whole, around a 
single church. 

This is new evidence of the wisdom 
of the ancients who, with a minimum of 
material resources, knew how to achieve 
great effects. It might almost be said that 


35 



The Art of Building Cities 


their procedures constitute a method for the 
greatest utilization of monumental build- 
ings. In fact, each remarkable fagade has a 
square to itself, and reciprocally, each 
square has its marble fagade. That, too, has 
its importance, for those superb stone eleva- 
tions, so desirable for giving a square 
enough character to save it from banality, 
are not found just everywhere. 

This cleverly refined method can no 
longer be used, since its application re- 
quires the existence of well enclosed squares 
and buildings set back against other struc- 
tures — two practices equally foreign to the 
style of the times, which prefers open 
breaches everywhere. 



36 

PERUGIA: 

I. Piaz2a del Duomo 

II. Piazza del Papa 

a. Palazzo communale 


But let us return to the old masters. At 
Perugia the Piazza di S. Lorenzo (Figure 36) 
separates the Cathedral from the Palazzo 
Communale. It is, then, both a cathedral 
square and a town hall square. Square III 
is given over to the cathedral. At Vicenza 
the Basilica of Palladio (Figure 38) is sur- 
rounded by two squares, each of which has 
its special character. Similarly, the Signoria 
at Florence (Figure 24) also has its sec- 


ondary square in the Portico of the Uffizi. 
From an architectural point of view this Sig- 
noria is the most remarkable square in the 
world. Every resource of the city building 
art has made its contribution here — the 


37 

MANTUA: 
S. Andrea 
I. Piazza d'Erbe 



shape and dimensions of the square, con- 
trasting with those of the adjoining square; 
the manner in which streets open; the loca- 
tion of fountains and monuments; all of this 
is admirably studied. Yet, it required an un- 
equaled quantity of labor. Several genera- 
tions of able artists used centuries in trans- 
forming this site, of no special excellence in 
itself, into a masterpiece of architecture. We 
never tire of this spectacle, which is as 
pleasingly effective as the means of fabri- 
cating it are inconspicuous. 


38 

VICENZA: 

Piazza of the 
Signori at the 
Basilica of 
Palladio 



Venice also has a combination of 
squares that are remarkable in every way, 
the Piazza di S. Marco (I) and the Piazzetta 


36 


Groups of Public Squares 


(II) (Figure 39. See also frontispiece and fig- 
ure 40). The first is a square having depth 
with respect to Saint Marks and an ex- 
pansive square with respect to the Procura- 
ties. Similarly, the second is expansive with 
respect to the palace of the Doges and, pri- 
marily, deep with respect to the superb 
scene formed by the Grand Canal with the 
Campanile S. Giorgio Maggiore in the dis- 
tance. There is a third small square before 
the lateral fagade of Saint Marks. There is 



39 

VENICE: 

1. P. S. Marco II. Piazzetta 


such an expanse of beauty here that no 
painter has ever conceived an architectural 
background more perfect than its setting. 
No theater ever created a more sublime tab- 
leau than the spectacle to be enjoyed at 
Venice. It is truly the seat of a great power, 
a power of spirit, of art, and of industry 
which has gathered the treasures of the 


world upon its vessels, which has thrust its 
supremacy over all the seas, and which 
has possessed its accumulated riches on 
this spot of the globe. The imagination of a 
Titian or of a Paul Veronese could not con- 
ceive of picture cities, in their backgrounds 
for great festival scenes, more splendid 
than these. 

This unequaled grandeur assuredly 
was attained through extraordinary means; 
the effect of the sea, the great number of 
buildings embellished with sculpture, the 
magnificent coloring of Saint Marks, and 
the towering Campanile. But the excep- 
tional effect of this assembly of marvels is 
due largely to skillful arrangement. We 
may be quite certain that these works of art 
would lose much of their value if they were 
located haphazardly by means of the com- 
pass and straightedge according to the 
modern system. Imagine Saint Marks iso- 
lated from its surroundings and trans- 
planted to the center of a gigantic modern 
square; or the Procuraties, the library, and 
the Campanile, instead of being closely 
grouped, spread out over a wide area, and 
bordered by a 200 foot wide boulevard. 
What a nightmare for an artist! The master- 
piece would thus be reduced to nothing. 
The splendor of buildings alone is not 
enough to form a magnificent whole if the 
general arrangement of the square is not 
carefully worked out. The shape of St. 
Mark's Plaza, and of the squares that are 
subordinate to it, conforms to every prin- 
ciple that we hove thus far discussed. We 


37 


The Art of Building Cities 


should note especially the location of the 
Campanile, which, rising between the two 
squares, seems to stand guard. 

What an impression is made by sev- 
eral grouped squares on the person who 
goes from one to the other! The eye en- 
counters a new scene every instant, and we 
feel an infinite variety of impressions. This 
may be observed in photographs of St. 
Mark's and of the Signoria of Florence. 


There are more than a dozen popular views 
of each square, taken from various points. 
Each one presents a different picture, so 
much so that it is sometimes difficult to be- 
lieve that they are all views of the same 
place. When we examine a modern square 
of strict right angle design, we can get only 
two or three views of different quality, for 
in general they express no artistic feeling. 
They are only surfaces of so much area. 


38 




19 





■^HUS far, most of our illustrations 

have been drawn from Italian cities 
. of renowned classic beauty. It may 
be questioned, however, whether we in the 
north of Europe have been able to repro- 
duce them. Climate, living habits, types of 
dwellings, and building methods are essen- 
tially different here. Does it not follow, then, 
that streets and squares must also be dif- 
ferent? Tremendous changes that have 
come, about make it impossible for us to 
follow ancient models. Even if we returned 
to polytheism we could not now build five 
or six or more temples around a single 
forum as the ancients did. Similarly, our 
houses are built quite differently from theirs. 
They have their origin in the covered 
"halle" of the northern countries with its 
numerous windows that open onto thor- 
oughfares. Thus we must have different 
kinds of squares and streets to satisfy our 
needs. 

During the Middle Ages and the Ren- 
aissance the influence of the German house 
changed the character of dwellings even in 
Italy, so that the "cortile" with its open 
arcade soon became the sole vestige of the 
ancient house. In the some way the ancient 
type of forum disappeared, for the people 


40 


Arrangement of Public Squares 
in Northern Europe 


of Italy adopted a new manner of living 
more like that of other peoples of Europe. 
The difference that exists between build- 
ings of the Renaissance and those of an- 
tiquity, as much in Italy as in the North, is 
much greater than the difference between 
German Gothic and Italian Gothic, or be- 
tween German Renaissance and Italian 
Renaissance. 


41 

FREIBURG: 
Cathedral Square 


Perhaps the greatest contrast be- 
tween Italian practices and those of the 
northern countries is in the building of 
churches and church plazas. In the North, 
cathedrals are frequently isolated, if not in 
the center of a square, at least in a way that 
separates them from other buildings by a 
complete border of street area. In large 
cities that is done only with one or two prin- 
cipal churches, for here also we find many 
churches of lesser importance set back 




Public Squares in Northern Europe 

against other structures. The usual explana- 
tion of this isolation of cathedrals is the pre- 
vious existence of a cemetery in the midst 
of which a chapel was built, as may still be 
seen in many villages. For examples of this 
practice we may refer to the Cathedral 
Square of Freiburg (Figure 41), the Frauen- 
kirche at Munich (Figure 42), the Cathedral 
of Ulm (Figure 43), Jakobskirche at Stettin 
(Figure 44), St. Stephans at Vienna, and 
numerous others. Where there is no ceme- 
tery to require this kind of isolation, the 
more desirable placement of churches 
against other structures is followed. This is 



nearly always the case with respect to Ren- 
aissance and Baroque churches since the 
practice of locating cemeteries in the cen- 
ters of cities was not followed in those times. 

But such isolation of buildings is only 
moderate, especially in the case of Gothic 
churches, and even that differs from mod- 
ern practice. The normal placing of a 
Gothic cathedral is such that houses border 
both sides and the choir, with but slight 
separation from the sanctuary by a narrow 
passage-way. There is usually a large plaza 
in front of the main portal to set off the 
fagade and towers. This arrangement is un- 
doubtedly the most favorable to Gothic con- 


struction. It provides a view from the front 
over the fagade and mighty towers exactly 
as needed to give expression to the gran- 



ULM: 

I. Cathedral Square II. Upper Churchyard 
III. Lower Churchyard 


diose motif of the building. The value of 
providing a further view of the soaring 
structure from vastly wider streets directly 
opposite the main portal is shown to be 
questionable wherever it is even half-way 
approached. A view of the Strassburg 
Cathedral from the narrow street opening 

44 

STETTIN: 

Jakobi-Kirchhoi 

on to the main portal shows the excellence 
of this arrangement (Figure 45). A similar 
effect is attempted in the cases of the 
Sebalduskirche and the Lorenzokirche at 



41 


The Art of Building Cities 



45 

STRASSBURG; Miinsfer 




Public Squares in Northern Europe 

Nuremburg as far as the narrow, crooked 
streets of the old city permit it. 

However, the lateral fagade of a 
Gothic church should be treated differently. 
It is all movement, descending from the 
lofty towers to the low chapel of the choir. 
The symmetrical center of the nave sides is 
not actually in the middle of them. The ex- 
terior but translates the interior essence of 
the building, and this is irreconcilable with 
a wide prospect of it from a great distance. 
Even on paper, in representing the lateral 
fagade of a chinch with its towers, the entire 
upper part of the towers must be omitted if 
a design of good proportion is to be pro- 
duced. This suggests that the old Gothic 
churches were so snugly enclosed, with free 
access only to the main portal, entirely for 
their own advantage. Access to the princi- 
pal portal naturally meets the need of 
crowds moving toward the building, the 
entry of a procession, and so on. A vener- 
able Gothic church placed in the midst of a 
vast drill place, it is readily seen, would 
have its essential quality and its powerful 
effect put at naught. This may be observed 
in the free placement of Cologne cathedral 
from the point of view of one approaching 
it, and especially in the small Votive Church 
at Vienna in a larger plaza. 

If St. Stephan's at Vienna were placed 
on the empty vastness of the Votive Church 
Plaza it would lose its present mysterious 
effect, while the glorious Votive Church, if 
it could be put on the site of the Strassburg 
Cathedral or of Notre Dame of Paris, would 


make a much stronger impression than it 
can in its present unfavorable surroundings. 

Thus the old principle of building churches 
against other buildings has been followed 
in the north of Europe with some difference 
in application. Of the twelve churches and 
Cathedral in Strassburg, only one is free- 
standing. Similarly, all of the old churches 
in Mainz, including the Cathedral, are built 
against other structures. The same is true of 
Bamberg, Frankfurt-am-Main, and other 
cities. While the practice is not universal, 
most of the old churches are built in this 
manner. Isolation of church buildings in the 
north is an exception to the general rule, 
and wherever it exists it contains its ex- 
planation (the presence of an ancient ceme- 
tery). Otherwise the partially rounded form 
of church plazas, as seen in northern 
German cities like Danzig, would be 
inexplicable. 


46 

FRANKFURT am Main 

St. Pauls 
and Plaza 

This exception does not invalidate 
the artistic value of the ancient building 
principle, for the old churches ore never 
found in the middle of their squares. Their 
geometric centers never coincide with those 
of their squares. The pedantic, futile, mod- 
ern practice that mokes excessive use of 



43 



The Art of Building Cities 


the straightedge and compass succeeds 
only in reducing the effect of buildings and 
squares to the minimum at one fell blow. 
There are numerous examples, like St. 
Paul's at Frankfurt-am-Main (See Figures 
46-50), to show how differently our prede- 
cessors thought of this. 


church, takes an expansive form. The cathe- 
drals of Constance and Schwerin follow the 
Italian principle of using three free sides 
of a monumental building to form separate 
and distinct plazas. 

It is scarcely necessary to go further 
in showing that the old plazas of the north- 



Although St. Paul's is completely free- 
standing, it is so cleverly drawn back into 
the end enclosure of the square that it seems 
to be built into the architectural mass that 
surrounds it. St. Stephan's at Constance has 
a similar placement and, in addition, two 
distinctly separated church squares. Essen- 



48 

REGENSBURG: 


I. Cathedral Square 

II. Cathedral Street 


tially the same arrangement may be ob- 
served in the Cathedral Square at Regens- 
burg, where the square takes the form of 
depth (within the terms of our previous dis- 
cussion) and the wide Cathedral Street, 
dominated by the lateral fagade of the 


49 

CONSTANCE: 

The Cathedral with 
its Plazas 


ern countries differ from the Italian only in 
form and size, and that they have a common 
irregularity. Varied possibilities in arrange- 
ment are to be observed in the location of 
the Cathedral of Wurzburg (Figure 51) and 


50 

SCHWERIN: 
The Cathedral 


the Church of St. Nicholas at Kiel (Figure 52) 
as well as in the three plazas of the Royal 
Theater at Copenhagen (Figure 53). 

The value of old building principles 




44 


Public Squares in Northern Europe 


is even more evident in the market places 
and city hall squares than it is in church- 
plazas. Here again we find conformity to 
the general practice of grouping architec- 
tural masses around open space. Perhaps a 
few examples can suffice to indicate the 
variety in this general type. 


51 

WURZBURG: 

a. Cathedral 

b. New Church 

I. Parade Plaza 

II. Church Plaza 

III. Cathedral Plaza 

An interesting combination of build- 
ings and squares may be seen at Brunswick 
(Figure 54), where St. Martin's Church has a 
square of depth before its principal fagade 
and a square of expanse along its lateral 
fagade, while the old City Hall, built back 
against other structures, dominates the 






52 

KIEL: 

St Nicholas Church 
a. City Hall 


Market Place. Scorning these fine models, 
the new City Hall has been built standing 
free on a remote site with no structural rela- 
tionship to other buildings. The Clothwork- 
ers Hall is surrounded by plazas appro- 
priate to the fagades which dominate them 


— squares of depth adjoining the narrow 
sides, and squares of expanse extending 
from the lateral walls. Thus the ensemble 
is composed of closely related parts in a 
manner that enhances the effect of each 
plaza and building. 




54 

BRUNSWICK: 

a. St. Martins Church c. Cloth-Hall 

b. Old City Hall I. Market Square 


A similar harmonious effect has been 
produced at Stettin by the location of the 
City Hall (figure 55) with respect to the sur- 
rounding open space. Two sides of the City 


45 


The Art of Building Cities 


Hall at Cologne ("Figure 56j are built into 
other structures, but each end of the build- 
ing commands a separate and distinct pub- 
lic square. The old City Hall of Hannover 
(Figure 57) stands at the edge of the Market 
Square, and again at Liibeck the City Hall 



gled, excessively opened public squares 
of modern times. The winding and crooked 
streets at least made for appreciable per- 
spectives superior to parallels vanishing at 
infinity. 


57 

HANNOVER: 

a. St. Martins Church 

b. Old City Hall 
L Market Square 



(Figure 58) is placed between the Market 
Place and the Cathedral Plaza so that it 
helps form the enclosure of each. We might 
go on indefinitely listing examples of this 
kind. 


Obviously the model of the ancient 
forum was followed by the builders of north- 
ern cities. They produced original results 
out of old principles by choosing the most 
natural solutions to their practical prob- 



In some of them we find that streets 
do not open on to squares according to the 
old principles. Circumstance usually ac- 
counts for this, but, even so, the poorest 
arrangements we find result in more coher- 
ent architectural ensembles than the man- 


58 

LUBECK: 

a. Cathedral 
c. City Hall 
I. Market Square 



lems. This simplified matters for them, for 
they undertook to judge the effect of their 
projected buildings on the particular sites 


46 



Public Squares in Northern Europe 


and in the natural settings intended for 
them, and their determinations were made 
accordingly. Modern architects often de- 
sign structures for sites that they have never 
seen. That inevitably leads to banal work, 
for the building conceived for construction 
on just any site goes up, through the work- 
ings of a perverse fate, in the midst of an 
empty expanse without the slightest corre- 
lation to its surroundings, and without bal- 
ance between its height and that of neigh- 
boring structures. 

Our era is marked by the mass pro- 
duction of buildings stamped out according 
to some accepted standard. The old build- 
ers, on the contrary, knew how to place their 
most important structures around a plaza 
in a way that could give character to an 
entire city despite the fact that the direct 
effect of such groupings was necessarily 
exercised in a single place. Figure 59 shows 



59 

BREMEN: 

I. Cathedral Yard 

II. Market Square with 
Statue of Roland 

a. Cathedral 

b. City Hall 
and Treasury 

c. Frauenkirche 


the placement of buildings around the Town 
Hall of Bremen. What is it that harmonizes 
all of the monumental construction amassed 


there? Like the Cathedral Square of Muns- 
ter (Figuie 60) this town hall square has a 
considerable number of public buildings 
that make up its enclosing walls. Although 
the curved side is explained by the former 



60 


MUNSTER: Cathedral Square 

a. Dom .b. Bischofshop c. Museum 
d. Stdndehaus e. Bank 


presence of a cemetery, the Cathedral ap- 
pears to be built to one side. 

The magnificent grouping about the 
Cathedral Square of Salzburg (Figure 61) is 
pure Italian, and, as a matter of fact, it is 
the work of Italian masters (Scamozzi, Sol- 
ari, and others). A colonnade formed by 
two rows of pillars (a rarity in the north) to 
the right and left of the Cathedral serves to 
separate the various plazas while preserv- 
ing free passage among them. Each of the 
plazas forms a distinct entity, and the ar- 
rangement gives the Cathedral an advan- 
tageous relation to the Episcopal Residence. 
Artistic requirements and day-to-day neces- 
sities (such as easy access to the oratories) 
are thus equally well served. 


47 


The Art of Building Cities 


61 

SALZBURG: 

I, Residence Plaza 

II. Cathedral Plaza 

III. Capital Plaza 

IV. Former Market Square 

V. Mozart Plaza 

a. Cathedral 

b. Residence 

c. Government Building 

d. Fountain 

e. Horse Pond 

f. St. Peters 






Public Squares in Northern Europe 

The single large plaza grouping of 
Nuremberg (Figure 62), excluding the Mar- 
ket Place, encloses the Egydienkirche. Its 
similarity to Italian plazas is not surprising 
since the church itself is of Italian style. But 
we should not attempt to distinguish be- 
tween Italian plazas and those of other 
countries. It is more helpful to consider the 



62 

NUREMBERG: 

Egydienplatz 

a. Egydienkirche 

b. Gymnasium 


degree to which various plazas approach 
the characteristics of the ancient forum. 

The oldest German building plan 
that consciously attempted to imitate an- 
cient Roman style was made for the Cathe- 
dral of Hildesheim (figure 64) and its sur- 
roundings. Bishop Bernard von Hildesheim, 
an art patron who took artists with him on 
his Italian travels to make sketches, ap- 
pears to have been responsible for it. This 
took place long after the time when art 
teachers had been heard extolling ancient 
Rome. Gone was the memory of ancient 
splendor. Yet something of the inspiring 
genius of antiquity is wafted to us, even 
today, by the small brazen imitation of the 
Trajan column in the Cathedral yard at 
Hildesheim. The brass doors of the Cathe- 


dral still preserve a memory of the metal 
doors of the Pantheon. 

Picture models of ancient Rome grad- 
ually supplanted memory of the reality. 
This was true even in Italy. Ancient splen- 
dor gave way to the world of medieval art, 
which, having attained its heights of great- 
ness, went to its decline in a sterile imitation 
of the ancient forms that had preceded it. 
We might suppose that with the reappear- 
ance of the classical column and entabla- 
ture, with the triumphant return of the gods 
of Olympus in poetry, painting, and sculp- 
ture, there might also be evidence of a new 
appearance of the Roman Forum, but that 
was not the case. Streets and plazas were 
affected by this change in style only in sur- 
face decoration. Innovations in the art of 
building did influence the construction of 


64 

HILDESHEIM: 

II. Greater Cathedral Yard 

III. Lesser Cathedral Yard 



plazas, but not according to ancient prin- 
ciples. Painting, sculpture, and architecture 
were competing in exploring the principles 
of perspective. A number of new architec- 
tural formulae, including a succession of 


49 



The Art of Building Cities 


new styles (Gloriette, Belvedere, etc.) sprang 
from this zeal for powerful effects in per- 
spective. The creation of a new art in paint- 
ing and theatrical representation was not 
enough. It fell to the architects to erect their 
buildings, monuments, fountains, and obe- 
lisks according to the same principles of 
perspective. Thus it was that art came to 
control vistas of the great three-sided plazas, 
churches, palaces, formal gardens, sump- 
tuous approaches to important buildings, as 
well as nature's masterpieces. 

A stage type of architectural setting 
having three enclosing sides with an open 
fourth side (intended as the point of view of 
the spectator) became the basic principle 
of every grouping. The full abundance of 
this effective principle was unquestionably 
an original creation of the era since it 
sprang from the newly matured principles 
of perspective. Careful searchings into his- 
tory show that the beauty of the plaza in 
the splendid arrangement of its entirety 
with a masterly grouping of secondary ele- 
ments often exceeded the artistic value of 
the buildings themselves. 

This richly developed art of building 
cities was destined to reach its climax in 
Baroque styles. Like strange forebodings, 
some evidences of Baroque began to ap- 
pear in the early Renaissance, and this re- 
quires an explanation. Each of these fore- 
runners had a certain ingenuity which con- 
tributed to a new style. The thing that is 
truly astonishing is the complete oblivion 
into which the principles of town building 


art have fallen in our own times. 

Among the earliest examples of three- 
sided enclosed plazas, we call attention to 
the Plaza of the Palazzo Pitti at Florence and 
that of the Capitol at Rome (Figure 63), be- 
gun in 1536 according to the precepts of 
Michelangelo. One of the finest squares of 
this kind, with three sides forming a coher- 
ent architectural whole, and without street 
intersections, is the Josephsplatz in Vienna 
with its unsurpassed quiet dignity. Vienna 
is exceptionally rich in masterly Baroque 
planning, and understandably so, for 
Vienna was a brisk center of activity for 
distinguished masters during the height of 
the period. Vienna's Piaristenplatz in its 
venerable confines may be regarded as an 
unsurpassed church plaza. 

The art of Baroque architecture is 
even more manifest in the old castles and 
massive complex structures of large monas- 
teries than it is in city planning of the period, 
for these groups of buildings provide us 
with fine examples of good building prac- 
tices — placement of churches against other 
structures, good interior arrangement, en- 
closed plazas, control of perspective, and 
so on. 

The open court enclosed on three 
sides became an established motif in 
Baroque chateaux that carried over into 
later construction. The numerous plans for 
royal residences of succeeding centuries 
follow this pattern almost without excep- 
tion. Examples of this may be seen at 
Coblenz Castle (Figure 65), the Wurzburg 


50 



Public Squares in Northern Europe 

Residence (Figure 66), Dresden Castle, and 
in many other places. Schonbrun Castle at 
Vienna, one of the most splendid examples 
of this type of layout, is appreciable from a 
considerable distance thanks to the effec- 



65 

COBLENZ: Castle 


tive approach over the stream that runs in 
front of the Castle. 

The development of Baroque style 
differs from the history of earlier styles in 
that it did not evolve gradually. On the con- 
trary, like modern styles, it came full pan- 
oplied from the drawing board as on inven- 
tion. We cannot, therefore, attribute the 
banality of modern planning to the fact that 
it has precisely the same kind of origin. We 
insist, simply, that the straight line and geo- 
metrical patterns should not be made the 
aims of our planning. 

In Baroque style there is rich orna- 
mentation and planning to insure a pleas- 
ing appearance, not only on paper, but in 
reality. Control of perspective effects and 
skillful plaza arrangement are its outstand- 
ing features. The work of the period reached 


a distinctive pinnacle in the art of city plan- 
ning by means of a style which, in its essen- 
tials, must have been devised through modi- 
fication of ancient principles. 

The idea of a theater-type perspec- 
tive, which underlies all of these groupings, 
is dramatically evident in castles and mon- 
umental building groups. The layout of 
Coblenz Castle (Figure 65) is also used at 
Dresden Castle and in many other places. 
Still more instructive, especially in its con- 
trast to esteemed contemporary practices, 
is the ground plan of the Wurzburg Resi- 
dence (Figure 66). Every modern university 
or group of public buildings laid out around 
large and small open spaces generally fol- 
lows some variant of the Wurzburg Resi- 



66 

WURZBURG: Residence 


dence plan — a large court or yard at the 
center with smaller courts at either side. 
This arrangement is quite popular. There are 


51 



two examples of it in Vienna — the new City 
Hall and the University. In each it may be 
observed that treatment of the components 
of the grouping follows more recent 
patterns. 

There is an essential difference be- 
tween these modern layouts and the work 
of the old Baroque masters. The large court, 
often more expansive than an ordinary 
plaza, actually belongs to the interior of the 
building, which, seen from the outside, has 
the appearance of a massive block. The 
architect cannot be blamed for that, for the 
site was prescribed for him in advance ac- 
cording to the city plan. A different state of 
affairs prevailed during the Baroque period. 
With one side of the court left open, the en- 
closure with its powerful architectural ef- 
fect could be advantageously seen and 
woven into the city structure. And which do 
we find the more beneficial? Again the de- 
cision is usually in favor of the old masters. 
We should not attribute modem shortcom- 
ings to the architects, but rather to the dis- 
credited city planning practices of our day. 


The great courts adjacent to the principal 
buildings of Vienna are truly masterpieces 
of the first rank, but who sees them? It may be 
confidently asserted that excluding the pro- 
fessors and students housed in the build- 
ings, less than five per cent of the popula- 
tion of Vienna have ever seen, or will see, 
the magnificent columned court of the Uni- 
versity. Further study of building design 
will readily reveal the manner in which the 
architect has generally been confined to 
the building of his modern cubicles by rigid 
plotting of building sites. The fine main por- 
tal is the feature that suffers most as a result 
of this. Projections of this kind, with their 
richly sculptured enclosures and ascending 
approaches, by their very nature, need a 
certain amount of open space for effective- 
ness. In the absence of this, it was necessary 
to compress the approaches and push 
everything back. How much more could 
have been accomplished in such cases if 
the architect had been allowed more free- 
dom and more control over sites and sur- 
roundings! 


52 



VIII 

The Artless and Prosaic Character 
of Modern City Planning 


^ HERE is a surprising contrast in mod- 
ern times between the art of building 
. cities and the development of other 
arts, including architecture. Town building 
has gone its own obstinate way oblivious 
of everything around it. This anomaly was 
discernible as early as the Renaissance and 
in the periods that immediately followed it, 
but it became more dramatic later when 
ancient styles appeared for the second time. 
Classical buildings and styles were repro- 
duced with faithful precision, and out of this 
enthusiasm for the art of the past, costly but 
impractical buildings began to spring up. 

The Walhalla at Regensburg is a re- 
flection of a Greek temple. The Loggia dei 
Lanzi has a modern counterpart at Munich. 
New churches have been built in imitation 
of the basilicas of the earliest Christians. 
Greek propylaea and Gothic domes have 
been put up. But what happened to the 
plazas that were essential to the original 
creations— the agora, the forum, the sig- 
noria, the market square? Nobody thought 
of them. 

The modern city planner has become 
poverty-stricken as for as art is concerned. 
He can produce only dreary rows of houses 
and tiresome "blocks" to put beside the 


wealth of the past. We are confused and 
disturbed because our cities fall so short of 
artistic merit. In seeking sensible solutions 
we are bewildered when, on every occa- 
sion, "block plans" are brought out for tech- 
nical discussion as though the problem 
were purely mechanical in its nature. 

Architects, of course, can design 
towers, balconies, caryatids, and gables, 
but they ore unable to get a cent for col- 
umns, porticos, arcs de triomphe or other 
features that could give character and art 
form to streets and plazas. Open space that 
should serve everyone actually belongs to 
the engineer and hygienist. All of the art 
forms in town building have disappeared 
one by one so that we have scarcely a mem- 
ory of them left. Surely there is ample evi- 
dence of this. 

We are perfectly aware of the great 
difference between our modern uniform 
plazas and the ancient public squares 
which we con still enjoy. Modem churches 
and monuments, we find, stand in the cen- 
ters of large sites. Our streets ore designed 
according to a chess-board pattern. They 
open large breaches in plaza enclosures 
which were formerly contained within a 
wall of monumental houses and buildings. 


53 



The Art of Building Cities 


On the other hand we are charmed by the 
picturesque appearance of old cities. We 
simply overlook the methods that were used 
to obtain the varied artistic impressions 
they make. 

A modern writer on city planning, R. 
Baumeister, in his book on urban develop- 
ment (page 97) says: "It is difficult to lay 
down a general principle concerning the 
factors that give a pleasing effect to a public 
square." Do we need more proof than this? 
Has not our study of ancient cities demon- 
strated the existence of definite principles 
which, set forth in great detail, could make 
up an entire manual and history of town 
building art? We would need volumes even 
if we confined our record to the accomplish- 
ments of the Baroque masters, who used 
such confident and deft skill in a wide 
variety of building conditions. The very fact 
that one of our foremost writers on the sub- 
ject can make such an assertion in the face 
of this evidence indicates most conclusively 
that we have lost sight of all relationship 
between cause and effect. 

In none of the histories of art do we, 
find a single chapter on city building, al- 
though these books review for us, along 
with the work of Phidias and Michelangelo, 
much that has been done in bookbinding, in 
pewter fashioning, in costuming, and in 
other lesser crafts. How evident it is, then, 
that we have lost the continuity of artistic 
tradition in city budding, since the very 
threads of continuity have become imper- 
ceptible. Let us look at the material at hand. 


There is a vast body of pronounce- 
ment to explain the shortcomings of mod- 
ern city planning. It continues to accumu- 
late in the daily papers and technical 
journals. An occasional over-pedantic de- 
nouncement of rectangularity in the design 
of house elevations is about as far as this 
ever goes toward explaining the poor effect 
of our building practices. Baumeister, too, 
says (on page 97 of his book), "there is a just 
complaint against the dreariness of modern 
streets," and he blames the "bulky effect" 
of our blocks of buildings for that. With 
respect to the location of monuments, he 
tells us that "day after day new mistakes 
are made in the placement of monuments." 
But we search in vain for an explanation of 
the error. Compulsion to consider the center 
point of a plaza as the only possible location 
for a monument appears to be inexorable, 
like a natural law, as though there were 
some deep urgency in giving the public a 
rear view of the sculptured great. 

Baumeister finds an illustration for 
one of his most discerning criticisms of mod- 
ern planning in the issue of Figaro for Aug- 
ust 23, 1874, which dealt with one of Mac- 
Mahon's trips. "Rennes," the article said, "is 
not exactly unfriendly to the Marshal, but 
the City is incapable of civic enthusiasm. I 
have observed that this is true of all cities 
where streets are severely straight with 
right-angle intersections. Straight lines sim- 
ply do not permit public demonstration. It 
could be observed in 1870 that cities of 
rectangular plan were easily taken, while 


54 



Modern City Planning 


those old towns with circuitous streets were 
able to defend themselves to the end." 

While straight lines and right angles 
are the distinguishing elements of artless 
city plans, they do not inevitably lead to 
banal effects. Straight lines and right 
angles are also the elements of Baroque 
planning, which gave us effects of true artis- 
tic power. It is in street layout that rectangu- 
larity is especially hazardous. A rural road 
that extends for miles without a curve bores 
the traveler, however interesting the sur- 
rounding country may be. Its inflexible 
straightness, at variance with nature, cuts 
rigidly across the land contours. Its mon- 
otony impels us to traverse it as quickly as 
possible. An excessively long, straight city 
street has the same effect. If, however, even 
the shortest of streets bores us, we must 
seek another explanation for the defect. 

Modern streets, like modern plazas, 
are too open. There are too many breaches 
made by intersecting lateral streets. This 
divides the line of buildings into a series of 
isolated blocks, and destroys the enclosed 
character of the street area. 

A comparison of old arcades with 
modern imitations of them will make this 
clear. The old arcade, grandiose in archi- 
tectural detail, runs as far as the eye can 
see along a street without intersection, or in 
an enclosure extending around a plaza, or 
at least without breach along one side. The 
whole effect depends on that, since only in 
that way can an arcade give the impression 
of being an enclosure. Modern planning 


produces results of a different nature. 
When occasionally a modern architect, in- 
spired by this splendid old motif, attempts 
to reproduce it, as has been done, for exam- 
ple in Vienna, adjacent to the Votive Church 
and near the new City Hall, the resultant 
work scarcely resembles the original model. 

The individual stalls are by far larger 
and more elaborately worked out than al- 
most any of the old arcades. The desired 
effect, however, is not there. Why? Each 
separate archway is attached only to its 
individual block. Numerous cross streets 
cut the arcade into small segments so that 
the general effect cannot be that of on en- 
closure. This can be successfully overcome 
only by extending the portico to cover the 
openings of cross streets. Unless this is done, 
the mangled design will remain like an axe 
without a blade. 

This explains, too, why our street ar- 
rangement does not have cohesive charac- 
ter. Corners usually determine the modern 
street plan. A string of isolated blocks of 
houses always presents a poor appearance, 
even if the street is curved. 

These considerations bring us to the 
real nub of the matter. Modern city building 
completely reverses the proper relationship 
between built up area and open space. In 
former times the open spaces — streets and 
plazas — were designed to have an en- 
closed character for a definite effect. Today 
we normally begin by parcelling out build- 
ing sites, and whatever is left over is turned 
into streets and plazas. 


55 



The Art of Building Cities 


Extreme and awkward angles were 
formerly withdrawn from view into the 
building areas, but our modern plans leave 
the irregular wedges for plazas. We even 
have a cardinal principle on that point 
(Baumeister, page 96): "From an architec- 
tural point of view, a network of streets is a 
prime guarantee of suitable house sites. For 
that reason, right-angle street intersections 
are desirable." 

Yes, indeed — for the architect who is 
afraid of an irregular site — the architect 
who must surely be innocent of the simplest 
rudiments of site planning! Without excep- 
tion it is the irregular sites that present the 
most interesting and generally superior 
possibilities, for the architect is impelled by 
them to use ingenuity and to surpass the 
mere mechanical drawing of straight lines. 
In such a plan many secondary features 
like elevators, stairways, storage rooms, 
and lavatories can be accommodated much 
more readily than in symmetrical plan. It is 
absurd, then, to prize lots of regular shape 
from the architect's point of view. There is 
simply no basis for such a prejudice. Yet we 
seem to be sacrificing all beauty in design 
of streets and plazas to this fraudulent 
precept. 

If we study the ground plan of a 
building that has been ably designed for an 
irregular lot, we will observe that all of its 
halls and rooms are well formed. The irreg- 
ularities are not in view. They are hidden in 
the thickness of the walls, or in the sec- 
ondary service features mentioned pre- 


viously. Nobody wants a triangular room, 
for it would not only be objectionable in 
appearance, but it could not be pleasingly 
furnished. However, a circular or elliptical 
staircase, enclosed by walls of unequal 



thickness, could easily be placed in a tri- 
angular space. 

This is the way cities were planned 
in past ages. The forum, like a main hall, 
had a regular form. Its visible open space 
was designed to produce a desired effect. 
Irregularities in the plan, on the contrary, 
were enclosed in built-over areas or hidden 
in walls, a procedure both simple and 
clever. We follow the opposite course to- 
day, as can be shown by three examples 


68 

TRIESTE: 

Piazza della Legna 

/ — ryr'j'-Tl I 

from a single city, Trieste: the Piazza della 
Casema (Figure 67), the Piazza della Legna 
(Figure 68), and the Piazza della Borsa (Fig- 



56 



Modern City Planning 

ure 69). From the point of view of city build- 
ing art they are not plazas at all, but sim- 
ply the residue left from rectangular lot 
plotting. The numerous wide and poorly 
planned streets that open on to these three 
open areas make it impossible to locate 
monuments or worthwhile buildings in 
them. These triangular plazas are just as 
objectionable as three-sided rooms. 

Let us examine this a little more 
closely. We have devoted an entire chapter 
to the irregularity of old plazas, and in it 
we upheld their general excellence. It might 
seem that this same judgment should apply 



to the examples we have just described, but 
that is not the case, because there are two 
entirely different kinds of irregularity. In 
the case of the three plazas of Trieste, there 
is a discordant irregularity, emphasized by 
the regular lines of the surrounding build- 
ings, which immediately strikes the eye. On 
the other hand, the irregularity of the old 
plazas that we have considered is a kind 
that readily gives the illusion of regularity 
— a kind that is more noticeable on paper 
than in reality. Again this is comparable to 
the old manner of planning buildings. 


We find few precise right angles in 
the plans of Romanesque and Gothic 
churches for the old builders were unable 
to draw them accurately. That led to no dif- 
ficulty, however, because the imperfections 
were not noticed. Great irregularities may 
also be observed in the ancient temples due 
to separated axes of columns, and so on; 
that is, they may be observed through care- 
ful measurement, but not by ordinary in- 
spection. No importance was attached to 
this, however, since the sole object was a 
pleasing architectural effect in actuality, 
and not a design to be appreciated on 
paper. 

At the same time, we can find exam- 
ples of almost unbelievable ingenuity in 
the curvature of building frames, etc. — ^in- 
genious touches which, while scarcely 
measurable, were used simply because 
they could be readily appreciated by the 
eye. 

The more we compare ancient meth- 
ods with modern practices, the more striking 
is the contrast, and each succeeding com- 
parison, from the point of view of city build- 
ing art, goes against contemporary proce- 
dure. We have in mind the current ground- 
less hesitancy to design impressively large 
building approaches; a suspicion of curved 
streets; a dreary uniformity of building 
heights; a striving after stark severity; end- 
less rows of windows of similar size and de- 
sign; an excess of diminutive pilasters; the 
perennial, miserable, little concrete scrolls, 
and an absence of expansive and re- 


57 



The Art of Building Cities 



strained wall spaces, which are not only We shall, however, briefly describe 

avoided but even replaced by false the various modern systems in the next 
windows chapter and present a definite conclusion. 


THE CAPITOL IN HOME 


58 



IX 


Modern Systems 



hair's breadth. Suppression, or sacrifice to 
system, of every ingenious touch that might 
give real expression to the joy of living, is 
truly the mark of our times. 

We have three dominant systems for 
building cities, and a number of variations 
of them. They are: the rectangular system, 
the radial system, and the triangular sys- 
tem. Generally speaking, the variations are 
bastard offspring of these three. From an 
artistic point of view the whole tribe is 
worthless, having exhausted the last drop 
of art's blood from its veins. These systems 
accomplish nothing except a standardiza- 
tion of street pattern. They are purely me- 
chanical in conception. They reduce the 
street system to a mere traffic utility, never 
serving the purposes of art. They make no 
appeal to the sense of perception, for we 
can see their features only on a map. 

For that reason we hove thus far 
avoided the term "street pattern" in discuss- 
ing ancient Athens, Rome, Nuremburg, or 
Venice. It is really beside the point, as far 
as art is concerned, for artistic worth can be 
expected only in that which we con see. 


like a single street or plaza. This obvious 
fact will suggest that under certain circum- 
stances almost any kind of street pattern 
can lend itself to artistic results, unless it 
has been designed with brutal heedless- 
ness, as happened in the cities of the new 
world according to the dictates of the genius 
loci, and, unfortunately, as has become 
common in our cities. 

Even the rectangular system could 
be used to form pleasing plazas and streets 
if the technician would permit the artist to 
look over his shoulder and change the posi- 
tion of his compass and T-square now and 
then. The two might even achieve a neat 
division of labor, for the artist could accom- 
plish his purpose by designing a few of the 
principal streets and plazas, willingly ced- 
ing the remainder to the necessities of traf- 
fic movement and other utilitarian consid- 
erations. In work areas of the community, 
the city would display its working clothes, 
but the principal streets and plazas could 
be arrayed in their best for sunshine to the 
stimulation and pleasure of those who use 
them. Thus these outstanding streets and 
plazas could serve to foster civic pride and 
to fire the ambition of maturing youth. 

That is exactly what we find in the 
old cities. Their numerous secondary 


59 



The Art of Building Cities 


streets, as a matter of fact, have little artistic 
significance. Only the traveler, the excep- 
tional onlooker, finds special beauty in 
them, as he does in everything. Critical ap- 
praisal finds only a few principal streets 
and plazas in the center of the city where 
the old builders have achieved a rich accu- 
mulation of their clever talents in works of 
civic art. 

This leads us to a vantage point that 
we must reach if, despite these modern city 
building systems, we are to preserve a modi- 
cum of the artistic in our cities. There is need 
for compromise, for if we are too exacting in 
what we demand for art, we will make little 
headway among those who are concerned 
with utilitarian requirements. Whoever is to 
succeed in upholding esthetic considera- 
tions in urban development must, first, 
realize that practical solutions to traffic 
problems are not necessarily rigid, unalter- 
able remedies; and, secondly, he must be 
prepared to demonstrate that practical re- 
quirements of modern living need not 
necessarily obstruct artful development. 

The most common modern system is 
the rectangular plan. It was established 
with inflexible permanence at Mannheim 
many years ago, resulting in a perfect chess 
board pattern for the City. Rectangularly is 
so completely dominant that it has even dis- 
couraged distinctive names for streets. An 
array of cubes extending in one direction is 
designated by a letter, while those files of 
similar cubes running in perpendicular di- 
rections are given numbers for names. Thus, 


the last vestiges of old city building forms, 
with their undertones of imagination and 
fancy, have been pushed into oblivion. 
Mannheim boasts of having created this 
system. Volenti non Hot injuiia.* Whoever 
bothers to compile all of the condemnation 
and scorn inspired by the invention will be 
able to fill volumes with it. Surprisingly 
enough, however, this very system has vir- 
tually taken the whole world. No matter 
where we go we find that newly developed 
city areas have followed the rectangular 
plan, for even where the radial or triangu- 
lar systems are in evidence, the lesser 
streets in the pattern are designed as closely 
as possible to the chess-board motif. This is 
especially surprising because such com- 
binations have long been in disrepute even 
among those who are interested solely in 
the circulation of traffic. To the incon- 
veniences in the system that these people 
have pointed out, we add another, which 
seems to have been overlooked heretofore, 
and that is the traffic difficulty created by 
intersecting streets. 

Let us consider the movement of ve- 
hicles at the opening (without complete in- 
tersection) of one street into another where 
left turns are made (Figure 70). A vehicle 
moving from A to C may meet another 
progressing from C to A, still another mov- 
ing from C to B, another going from B to A, 
and finally another moving from B to C. 
There are also four possibilities for the ob- 
struction by other vehicles of the passage of 

*No injury is done to a consenting party. 


60 



Modern Systems 


a vehicle moving from A to B. There are but 
two additional possibilities for encounters 
between moving vehicles in the case of a 
vehicle moving from B to A, since all other 
possibilities have been accounted for in the 
aforementioned series. In the case of ve- 
hicles going from C to A, or from C to B, 
there are no possibilities for meeting other 
vehicles which have not already been ac- 




counted for. Without taking account of 
duplications, then, there are a dozen possi- 
bilities for the meeting of vehicles at this 
particular street junction: 


AB and BA 
ABandBC 
AB and CA 
ABandCB 


AC and BA 
AC and BC 
AC and CA 
ACandCB 


BA and CA 
BA and CB 
BC and CA 
BCandCB 


Intersections of trajectories, marked 
by small dots on the diagram, impede traf- 
fic and can cause complete obstructions 
when one vehicle must wait for another to 
pass. However, if there are but three of 
these points, and if traffic is not especially 
heavy, there are but few cases of complete 
obstruction. This circumstance, the junction 
of a minor street with a more important 
thoroughfare, is commonly found in the old 
cities. It is, moreover, a highly practical 
traffic utility. 


However, when the two streets com- 
pletely intersect, as in Figure 71, the situa- 
tion becomes much more complicated. In 
calculating the possible meetings of vehi- 
cles in intersections, as we did in the case 
of the junction of two streets, we find that 
there are fifty-four such possibilities, with 
sixteen intersections of the various trajec- 
tories, and exactly five times as many po- 
tential traffic obstructions. The path of a 
single vehicle going from A to B is inter- 
sected by four other paths, and a vehicle 
moving from C to D meets a potential 
obstruction in the center of the street inter- 
section. 

These intersections tend to slow traffic. 
Those who are accustomed to using ve- 
hicles know that it is often necessary to slow 
down to a walk in modern parts of cities, 
while much greater speed is possible in the 
busy, narrow streets of the old quarters. 
That is because the old districts rarely con- 
tain street intersections, and, as a matter of 



fact, their street junctions are relatively 
infrequent. 

Pedestrians are imposed upon even 
more seriously by modern street systems. 


61 


The Art oi Building Cities 


They must leave the sidewalk for a hundred 
feet or so to cross a street, giving all of their 
attention meanwhile to the danger of ve- 
hicles approaching from the right and left. 
There is no continuous fagade to protect 
them. In every city where people custom- 
arily promenade it will be observed that 
they instinctively choose a street with but 
few intersections so that the pleasure of 
strolling will not be incessantly disturbed 
by the necessity for keeping out of the way 
of moving vehicles. 

The Ringstrasse Corso in Vienna is a 
perfect case in point. The inner side of the 
Ringstrasse is heavily used by pedestrians 
from the buildings of the Garden Homes As- 
sociation to the elongated Kartnerstrasse, 
while the opposite side, which is much 
cooler in the summer, is usually empty. 
Why? Simply because a walk along the un- 
popular south side requires a crossing of 
the Schwarzenberg Plaza, a disagreeable 
experience. From Kartnerstrasse on to the 
Hofmuseen, however, the crowd suddenly 
switches to the opposite side of the Ring- 
strasse. Why? Because the pedestrian, un- 
less he crosses at this point, must pass the 
rising approach to the Opera, which no 
longer corresponds to the natural slope of 
the street. 

When more than four street openings 
converge at one point we are presented 
with a truly amazing traffic situation. The 
addition of a single junction to an intersec- 
tion increases the number of potential meet- 
ing points of vehicles to one hundred and 


sixty, more than a ten-fold increase as com- 
pared with the first type of junction we con- 
sidered, with a consequent increase in the 
number of traffic obstructions. What shall 
we say, then, of a situation where six or 
more streets converge at one point (Figure 
72 )? In such a case free movement of traf- 
fic is out of the question at the busy hours of 
the day, and the city must place a police 
officer at the point to direct the movement 
of vehicles. 


72 

KASSEL: 

In del Kolnerstxasze 



These points of convergence are 
especially dangerous for pedestrians. In 
some places attempts have been made to 
overcome a few defects of this type of inter- 
section by locating, here and there, little 
islands of pedestrian refuge from which rise 
impressive, slender lamp posts, like beacons 
in the midst of swelling waves of traffic. 
These isolated segments of sidewalk con- 
stitute, perhaps, the most important and 
original innovations of modern art in city 
building! Despite all precautionary meas- 
ures, only the agile can safely cope with 
them. The aged and infirm avoid them by 
wide detours. 

There you have the results of a sys- 
tem that has heedlessly cast aside every 
artistic tradition for the sole purpose of 


62 



Modern Systems 


bowing to the expedients of traffic circula- 
tion. We have even called these points of 
traffic convergence "plazas," although they 
have none of the characteristics of plazas, 
but seem, rather, to display both the ugly 


73 

CASSEL: 

Konigsplatz 



and impractical. It is the result of planning 
for traffic rather than planning, as should 
be the case, for streets and plazas. 

The rectangular system produces 
these points of convergence wherever the 


terrain is irregular or at points where new 
districts must be blended with the old parts 
of cities. This requires a departure from the 
chessboard pattern, or at least a modifica- 
tion of it, and the result is a triangular so- 
called "plaza." The radial system, or a com- 
bination of modem patterns, produces even 
more of them. 

The pride of modern city planning is 
the circular plaza, like the Konigsplatz at 
Cassel (Figure 73), or the octagonal plaza, 
like the Piazza Emanuele at Turin. There are 
no better examples than these of the com- 
plete absence of artistic feeling and the 
flouting of tradition that characterize mod- 
ern city plans. Of course, these geometric 
plazas look quite impressive in their pretty 
regularity when we see them on paper. 



The Art of Building Cities 


(Figme 74) but what is the effect in reality? 
They make a high virtue of parallels extend- 
ing to infinity, an effect that was cleverly 
and artfully avoided by the old builders. 
They make the center of traffic movement 
serve also as the central point for every per- 
spective. In walking around such a plaza 
the spectator retains the same view before 
his eyes so that he never knows exactly 
where he is. A single turn is enough to cause 
a stranger to one of the disconcerting, merry- 
go-round plazas to become completely lost. 
In the Piazza Vigliena at Palermo (Quattro 
Canti) the four corner buildings, although of 
stately architecture, are without effect for 
they are too much alike in design, and, while 
only two important streets open into this 
octagonal plaza at right angles, strangers 
frequently get lost there and wander into 
one of the four tributary streets in search of 
its name or a familiar building for reorienta- 
tion. Truly we can say little for these plazas 
except that it is difficult to get around in 
them, they give us monotonous perspec- 
tives, and the buildings which enclose them 
cannot be set off advantageously. How odd 
it was of the old builders to pay such shrewd 
attention to these things! 

This type of plaza, with its islands of 
pedestrian refuge and gas candelabra or 
columned monument, made an early ap- 
pearance in Paris, although the recent regu- 
larization of the plan of that City has not 
made exclusive use of any modern system. 
That is attributable partly to the natural re- 
sistance offered by the existing develop- 


ment, and partly to the tenacious manner in 
which the fine traditions of art seem to per- 
severe. Hence, the procedure has been dif- 
ferent in different parts of the City, but it 
might be said that a certain residue of the 
Baroque tradition underlies the entire work. 
Obviously it has carried over a deliberate 
working for good perspective effects. The 
location of monumental buildings at the 
termination of wide avenues has been one 
of its basic reforms, forming a link between 
modern practice and the old Ringstrasse 
pattern. The modern boulevard came into 
being when the cutting away and clearing 
out of tightly massed old buildings became 
necessary. This regularization of Paris, con- 
ceived in the grand manner, established a 
new style which was especially influential 
in the larger cities of France. 

The Place Saint-Michel at Nimes (Fig- 
ure 75) is an example of excessive opening 
of a plaza enclosure by the entrance of 
oblique streets. The Place du Pont at Lyon 
and other like illustrations of this might be 
given. This practice has something about it 
that harks back to the radical regularization 
of Rome under Nero, although it is much 
more cautious. New boulevards and ave- 
nues have been built at Marseille, at Nimes 
(Cours Neuf, Boulevard du Grand Cours, 
Boulevard du Petit Cours), at Lyon (Cours 
Napoleon), at Avignon (Cours Bonaparte), 
and in other cities. In Italy, wide streets of 
this kind, capable of accommodating sev- 
eral vehicles abreast with a bordering walk 
way, are given the name of "Corso" or 


64 



Modern Systems 


"Largo." In the north, wide rings (Ring- 
strasse) have often replaced the old fortified 
city walls. We find them in Vienna, Ham- 
burg, Munich, Leipzig, Breslau, Hanover; at 
Prague between the old and new cities; at 
Antwerp; at Wiirzburg, in the form of a pen- 
tagon (Juliuspromenade, Hofpromenade, 
etc.); and in other places. There are many 
very old and isolated examples of this con- 
ception of the grand avenue, for example: 
Langgasse at Danzig, Breiten Gosse at Wei- 
mar, Kaiserstrasse at Freiburg, Maximilian- 



strasse at Augsburg, or Unter den Linden at 
Berlin. Hunters Row in Vienna is carried out 
entirely in the manner of this type of wide 
thoroughfare designed to give an impres- 
sive vista. These are forms in city building 
which, although modern, do have artistic 
merit. They are all done in the Baroque 
manner. 

However, as soon as geometrical lay- 
outs of "blocks" became doihinant, art was 
silenced. We find support for this assertion 
in the modernization that took place in 
Gotha, Darmstadt, Diisseldorf, the fan 
shaped plan of Karlsruhe, and elsewhere. 
The failure of these "improvements" to solve 
the problems of traffic movement — and that 


was the sole motive for undertaking them — 
is proclaimed by the empty look of so many 
wide modern streets and plazas, in contrast 
to the busy activity in the old narrow streets 
(cf . Ludwigstrasse in Mrmich or the City Hall 
Square in Vienna). These wide thorough- 
fares have been built at the edges of cities, 
where great concentrations of traffic are not 
likely to occur, while the narrow streets in 
the heart of the city are left undisturbed. 

There is evidence enough to show 
that those who advocate planning cities for 
the mere circulation of traffic, with the suc- 
cess they have had, are scarcely justified in 
casting the assistance of art, history, and 
the great traditions of city building to the 
four winds. 

But let us discuss one of the really 
effective products of modem planning. The 
improved public walks and gardens ore un- 
questionably of great hygienic value. Indis- 
putable, also, is the charming result of 
bringing rustic beauty into the midst of a 
great city where nature's work and man's 
architecture can be seen in fascinating con- 
trast. We may ask, however, whether or not 
proper sites hove been chosen for these im- 
provements. From a purely hygienic point 
of view the answer seems to be easy — ^the 
more green open space, the better. But if art 
is to be taken into account, we must give 
some thought to where and how the green 
open areas should be located. The most 
recent, and most pleasing, developments of 
this kind are to be seen in modern suburbs 
like the justly famed Suburban Village of 


65 


The Art of Building Cities 


Frankfurt-am-Main, the Wahring Cottage 
Town at Vienna, similar annexations to the 
old city of Dresden, and in other places. 
However, as the rustic type of development 
is brought closer in to the center of the city, 
particularly near monumental structures, 
the more difficult it becomes to find an ex- 
ample that is generally satisfactory or art- 
fully. carried out. 

Modern naturalistic landscape paint- 
ing is not a suitable medium for represent- 
ing grandiose subjects like mythological 
or religious scenes, public buildings, or 
churches. An attempt to harmonize it with 
monumental architecture would inevitably 
result in a disagreeable conflict in style. In 
exactly the same way, the location of idyllic 
parks in the environs of a city's principal 
plazas results in a clash between nature 
and stylistic monumentality. 

The Baroque conception of the formal, 
trimmed park is based on a recognition of 
this conflict and a determination to avoid it, 
although our predecessors attempted land- 
scape gardening only in connection with 
palaces. The magnificent plazas of antiq- 
uity, of the Middle Ages, and of the Renais- 
sance were, above all, focal points of man's 
art, with emphasis on architecture and 
sculpture. The extent to which indiscrimi- 
nate planting in them has been detrimental, 
especially in the shabbily planted boule- 
vards, may be observed in photographs of 
outstanding buildings. Most of them are 
taken in winter to minimize the obstructive 
effect of trees and foliage. In many cases 


drawings are preferable to photographs be- 
cause it is possible to do away with the dis- 
turbing trees in a drawing. Does it not fol- 
low, then, that the trees are actually in the 
way? What is the value of a plaza, created 
especially to provide a view of a building, 
if we permit vegetation to obscure the view? 

Trees should not be planted so that 
they can hide buildings of special interest. 
That is a sound principle, and it is drawn 
entirely from Baroque practice. It cannot be 
followed blindly, of course, for that would 
mean tearing out practically all of the 
planting in modern cities. Just as we have 
no suitable plazas for monuments, we have 
none for trees. In both cases the deficiency 
is due to the "block" system of planning. 

In the older cities there is a surprising 
number of delightful little gardens hidden 
away within blocks of houses, with no ex- 
terior evidence of their presence. How dif- 
ferent they are to the typical open arrange- 
ments of today! These old private gardens 
were often thrown together to form large 
open areas protected from wind and dust 
on all sides by high walls of houses. They 
are places of genuine relaxation for the in- 
dividual owner, and they offer the entire 
group of householders the advantages of 
more light , more air, and better prospect 
over green open space than would other- 
wise be possible. 

The back of a modern house usually 
opens on to narrow yard that is dismal, 
dusty, and like a miserable jail yard, often 
evil smelling enough to discourage the 


66 



Modern Systems 


opening of windows. This keeps the tenants 
dissatisfied and increases the demand for 
houses with greater street exposure, much 
to the detriment of good city arrangement. 

Modern parks, surrounded by open 
street areas, are at the mercy of wind and 
weather, and, unless vast dimensions give 
some protection, they ore usually covered 
with dust. Thus they are without hygienic 
value, especially in the hot summer months 
when the public is most careful to avoid 
heat and dust. 

Again the trouble is the abominable 
block system. The middle of a large site is 
quite as unsuitable for a park as it is for a 
building or monument. Parks need the 
benefit of enclosure just as buildings do. 
The Plaza behind the new Exchange Build- 
ing at Vienna is an example of this inju- 
dicious kind of planting. As far as hygienic 
benefit is concerned, we may be quite sure 
that the trees there are of no importance 
whatever because they provide neither 
shade nor recreation. Indeed, they put forth 
a difficult struggle with dust and heat to 
withstand a withering death themselves. 
They succeed only in ruining the view of the 
Exchange. Would it not be wiser to cease 
the wasteful expense of this shabby kind of 
planting, and to build instead enclosed pub- 
lic porks that could offer, at least, protection 
from the bustle of the streets? Wherever we 
find an old palace garden that has been 
turned into a public park, we can invariably 
observe that it is effectively removed from 
vehicular movement, and that it has an en- 


closed character. We will also observe that 
a park of this kind is of definite recreational 
value, and that it has flourishing vege- 
tation. 

Public desertion of miserable little 
park walks in favor of the sidewalks or 
boulevards and avenues on hot summer 
days is evidence of the characteristic waste 
and futility of this type of scattered, scrappy 
planting. Its chief value, perhaps, is in the 
evaporation of moisture on the foliage, 
which functions as a kind of cooling device. 
The slight benefits of scattered planting, 
however, may be sufficient to justify it, if 
straight rows of trees are not extended in 
front of monumental buildings. The artistic 
damage they can do under such circum- 
stances far outweighs their almost neg- 
ligible hygienic value. To interrupt planting 
in rows at such points is to choose the lesser 
of two evils. ■ 

Even in the field of gardening the 
discord between old and new methods pre- 
vents the use of a single kind of treatment to 
every part of the city. The point of departure 
in every layout is the historical develop- 
ment of the primitive unbroken street line 
which retains a feeling of compactness and 
enclosure in old cities. Modern planning 
follows a contrary tendency to segment 
everything into blocks: blocks for houses; 
blocks for plazas; blocks for parks; always 
blocks bounded by streets. This has pro- 
duced the irresistible tendency to locate 
every kind of monument in the center of an 
open space. 


67 



There is a method in this madness. 
The block system is based on careful calcu- 
lation to produce a maximum of street front- 
age. That, in a nutshell, accounts for the 
entire system. The value of a block in- 
creases with its street frontage. The greatest 
value is attained when the circumference of 
the block is as great as its area will permit. 
The laws of geometry, then, would indicate 
that circular "blocks" are of the greatest 
value, provided they are grouped together 
in the smallest possible total area, like the 
ranging of six circles of equal size closely 
around a seventh central circle. If straight 
streets of uniform width were then run 
through the connecting points, the circles 
would become regular hexagons, like cer- 
tain types of mosaic work, or like the cells of 
a honeycomb. Although it is difficult to be- 
lieve that anyone could be capable of doing 
such a banal thing, this incredible, artless 
type of labyrinth has actually been laid out 


The Art of Building Cities 

in Chicago.* It is the purest form of the 
block system! 

In the old world where men know the 
beauty and comfortable quality of vener- 
able cities, they have not gone to that ex- 
tremity. Much of the old charm has, of 
course, been irretrievably lost, being irre- 
concilable with the exigencies of modern 
living. But we cannot leave it all to blind 
chance. We must preserve as much artistic 
vigor as we can in our city planning. We 
must understand what there is that can be 
retained, and what there is that can be al- 
lowed to fall by the wayside. That will be 
the subject of the next chapter. 

*Sitte evidently had information of a plotting plan that was never 
carried out. In August, 1943, a search of records in the Chicago Plan 
Commission was undertaken to determine the extent of this type of 
plotting. H. Evart Kincaid, Executive Director of the Commission, 
advised that the search disclosed no evidence of hexagonal plotting. 
The hexagonal plot, however, is seriously discussed by Robert Whit- 
ten and Thomas Adams in Neighborhoods oi Small Homes, Cam- 
bridge, 1931. (Translator's Note.) 


68 



Modern Limitations on Art 
in City Planning 


M any of the old structural forms 
are simply out of the question for 
modern builders. While that may 
disturb the sentimental, it should not plunge 
them into a sterile nostalgia. Decorative 
construction without vital function is but 
temporary and of questionable value. Time 
makes inexorable changes in community 
life, and these changes alter the original 
significance of architectural forms. 

Important events of today are pub- 
lished in the newspapers, rather than by 
public criers, as was done in ancient Greece 
and Rome, and we cannot change that. Re- 
tail trade has made a steady progression 
from the market square into dull buildings 
and the pedler's satchel, and we cannot 
change that. Fountains have been reduced 
to mere decorative function by the piping 
of water directly into houses, and that is not 
a thing we would change. Popular festivals, 
parades, religious processions, and open- 
air theatrical events will soon be but 
memories. 

As the slow succession of the cen- 
turies has removed feature after feature of 
civic activity from public open places, it has 
shorn the plaza of its principal purpose. 
Artistic city development got more encour- 


agement from the quality of ancient life 
than it does from our severely regulated 
modern existence, for modern ideas of 
urban beauty differ from the old in basic 
character as well as in detail. 

Great population increases in our 
modern capitals, more than anything else, 
have shattered the old forms. With the 
growth of a city its streets widen and its 
buildings grow taller and bulkier. With 
their colossal dimensions, numerous stories, 
and endless rows of monotonous windows, 
they can scarcely make a pleasing impres- 
sion. Appreciation of style has, at length, 
become so blunted by the incessant dreari- 
ness of modern architecture, that only an 
exceptionally striking effect can now arouse 
interest. But we cannot turn the clock back, 
and consequently the modem planner, like 
the modern architect, must draw his plans 
for a metropolis to the scale of several mil- 
lion inhabitants. 

Intense human concentration has 
meant intense increase in land value, and 
neither the individual nor city government 
can escape the consequences. Subdivision 
and street opening have proceeded apace. 
Street after street has been cut through old 
districts, giving birth to more and more city 


69 



The Art of Building Cities 


blocks. This has been an inevitable result 
of high land value and greater demand for 
street frontage. Simple rules of art can 
hardly be expected to solve all the problems 
that confront us. We must accept these 
things as the given conditions of an art 
problem, just as physics and statics are 
taken into account by the architect even 
though they put restrictions on the freedom 
of his work. 

It is difficult to overcome the eco- 
nomic effects of rectangular lot plotting, but 
we cannot submit blindly to the practice. To 
do so is to fan the flames that threaten civic 
beauty. Gradual demolition for the sake of 
rectangularity is already making inroads 
upon some of the charmingly varied old 
streets of Nuremberg, Heilbronn, and 
Gorlitz. 

High land costs encourage greater 
intensity of land use, and this, in turn, sup- 
presses certain structural forms. Modern lot 
plotting tends to exalt the cube motif in 
architecture. Ledges, court yards, arcades, 
free standing towers, and magnificent out- 
door stairways have become prohibitive 
luxuries for us. Even in the design of public 
buildings the architect must curb his in- 
genuity in designing balconies, bay win- 
dows, or projections of any kind. The tend- 
ency to stick to the "building line" is so 
deeply entrenched in modern practice that 
it has virtually outmoded worthwhile struc- 
tural forms like the outdoor stairway. We 
still have them as interior features. They 
hove fled from the open places as though to 


take refuge from the invasion of traffic. 

How can we compensate for the interest- 
ing features that have thus become atro- 
phied? How would the municipal buildings 
of Leiden or Bolswaert look if we removed 
their imposing exterior staircases? What 
kind of impression would the Heilbronn City 
Hall make if we took away its two monu- 
ments and its outer stairs? These minor 
structures, although impractical under the 
limitations imposed by modern conditions, 
enhance the beauty and splendor of a 
whole city. Notwithstanding this, no con- 
temporary architect would dare suggest 
anything like the charming grouping of a 
magnificent staircase, terrace, rostrum, and 
statue that we find near the City Hall of 
Gorlitz. The remarkable stairways, arcades, 
and balconies appurtenant to the old city 
buildings of Liibeck and Lemgo are among 
the delightful riches of the past. They are 
marked by the spirit of their times. We mar- 
vel at the Palace of the Doges at Venice and 
the Capitol at Rome, but nobody suggests 
that we build such structures now. We ad- 
mire the great staircases that ornate the 
town halls of Halberstadt, Brussels, Deven- 
ter, Hoogstraeten, La Haye, and Rothen- 
burg, but modern practice is hostile to the 
grand stairway. The mere thought of snow 
and ice is enough to banish all visions of 
the past. More than that, the grand stairway 
has become an interior feature in this age of 
indoor living. We have become such invet- 
erate indoor creatures, having brought pub- 
lic gatherings inside from the plazas and 


7G 



Modern Limitations 


streets, that we can scarcely work or dine 
with open windows. 

Outdoor use of certain interior fea- 
tures like stairs and halls was an essential 
charm of ancient and medieval city build- 
ing. The picturesque character of Amalfi, 
for example, is derived from an amazing 
mixture of various indoor and outdoor fea- 
tures. The effect is such that one feels that 
he is both inside a building and out in the 
open space at the same time, and that he is 
on the ground level and on one of the upper 
stories at the same time. That is because it is 
difficult to encompass the varied combina- 
tions at once. Places like this were the origi- 
nal stage settings that the theater later 
sought to imitate in backdrops. It is most un- 
likely that our dull modern layouts will ever 
serve as models for dramatic settings. 

In this modern conflict between the 
fanciful and the practical, the picturesque 
is put aside and emphasis is placed on crass 
utility. Although we would not be likely to 
substitute sheer work-a-day practicality for 
beauty in the theater, we have done it in 
our cities with rectangular blocks. Of course 
it would be desirable to have an abundance 
of effective motifs, and if somehow we 
should have an increase in interesting 
street irregularities , broken or circuitous 
street lines, streets with non-parallel sides, 
varied building heights, outer stairways, 
balconies, bay windows, gables and all the 
things that make up the picturesque furni- 
ture of dramatic architecture, no modern 
city would suffer by it. However those who 


have more than a literary acquaintance 
with the problem — ^those who have actually 
engaged in building — know perfectly well 
that many barriers stand in the way, so 
many in fact that at first glance nothing at 
all seems possible. 

Complete translation of ideal con- 
ception into actuality is impossible for a 
large grouping of picturesque details 
whose charm depends upon the incomplete 
and ancient. Decay and even dirt with its 
varied colors and textures can be made at- 
tractive in pictures, but it is not so in reality. 
An old castle may be very fine for a short 
summer visit, but a new building with its 
numerous conveniences is preferable for 
permanent residence. We should be blind 
indeed to overlook the tremendous benefits 
in sanitation that modern city building has 
given us. In this the engineers that we hove 
criticized so roundly have done wonders in 
rendering an everlasting service to human- 
ity. Their work has wrought remarkable 
improvement in the public health of Euro- 
pean cities as can be shown by declining 
death rates, which in many cases have 
been reduced by one-half. That result re- 
flects untold improvement in the general 
welfare of every city dweller. Paying en- 
thusiastic tribute to this basic public benefit, 
it may still be asked whether the price for it 
need be stripping beauty from our cities. 

Conflict between the utilitarian and 
the beautiful cannot be resolved. It will go 
on because of its very nature. That kind of 
struggle between two opposing forces is not 


71 



The Art of Building Cities 


peculiar to the art of building cities. It is in- 
herent in all of the arts, even those that ap- 
pear to have the greatest freedom. There is 
always a conflict between the artistic objec- 
tive and the restrictions imposed by the 
artistic medium. A completely unhampered 
work of art may be possible in the abstract, 
but never in perceptible reality. The practi- 
cal artist can carry out his ideas only within 
the limits imposed by technical feasibility. 
Those who familiarize themselves with the 
history of the arts will understand that these 
limitations are more or less severe depend- 
ing upon the nature of technical expediency 
and the practical demands of a given era. 

At present there are severe limita- 
tions upon art in building cities. We can no 
longer create a superior, finished work of 
art like the Acropolis of Athens. Even if the 
tremendous cost were supportable, we lack 
the basic art idea — a universally accepted 
explanation of reality throbbing in the daily 
life of the people — that could find expres- 
sion in such a work. Even as superficial 
decoration without vital significance, it 
would still be beyond the reach of nine- 
teenth century materialism. The contem- 
porary city builder must, above all, proceed 
with modest circumspection, not so much 
because of a lack of money as because of 
a lack of a genuine, vital, fundamental 
approach. 

If we should now undertake a new 
development to be both grandiose and pic- 
turesque, designed to express and exalt 
civic life, we should need, in addition to ac- 


curate design, the colors of the old masters, 
to obtain results like theirs. We should have 
to create curves, recesses, and irregularities 
by artificial means, or, in other words, to 
force spontaneity. Is it really possible to plan 
on paper the kind of effect that was pro- 
duced by the passage of centuries? Could 
we actually derive any satisfaction from 
feigned naivete and sheer artificiality? Cer- 
tainly not. These charming effects must be 
foresworn in an age that no longer builds 
little by little as circumstances at the site 
suggest, but instead carries on its construc- 
tion according to calculations made at the 
drawing board. We cannot go back through 
the centuries, and consequently we cannot 
expect to reproduce much of the pictur- 
esque quality that we associate with the old 
cities. Modern life and modern building 
methods prevent a servile imitation of old 
city arrangement. We must never lose sight 
of that fact, lest we become hopelessly senti- 
mental. The vitality of the glorious old 
models should inspire us to something other 
than fruitless imitation. If we seek out the 
essential quality of this heritage and adapt 
it to modern conditions we shall be able to 
plant the seeds of new vitality in seemingly 
barren soil. 

This attempt should not be deterred, 
no matter how great the discouragements 
may be. We can make full allowance for the 
requirements of modern building practices, 
public health, and traffic circulation with- 
out abandoning every artistic considera- 
tion. These things need not force us to re- 


72 



Modern Limitations 


duce city building to a mere technical pro- 
cedure like the building of a road or a ma- 
chine, for even in our busy day-to-day activ- 
ity we cannot forego those noble impres- 
sions that engender artistic conception. It 
must be remembered that art has a legiti- 
mate and vital place in civic arrangement, 
for it is this kind of art alone that daily and 
hourly influences the great mass of the peo- 


ple, while the influence of the theater and 
concert hall is generally confined to a rela- 
tively small segment of the population. Pub- 
lic planning authorities should take this 
factor into careful consideration and, as far 
as is possible, harmonize the essential old 
principles with present day necessities. We 
shall elaborate on that subject in the fol- 
lowing final chapters. 


73 



XI 


improved Modern Systems 


O UR study has already indicated the 
obvious need for innovations to 
overcome the effects of the ill- 
famed rectangular system. Analysis of old 
plans has hinted at some improvements. 
First of all, however, it is worth while to 
present a number of examples, drawn from 
modern iimovotions, to show that beauty 



and coherence are still attainable in spite 
of restraints and artistic limitations imposed 
by practical expediency. 

All of the after-influences of the 
Baroque tradition belong in this category. 
In them we find many effective and delib- 
erate uses of worthy principles, although 


they merit but occasional general approval 
here and there in ground plans of horse- 
shoe shape or in the treatment of the fore- 
ground of monumental buildings. Superior 
layouts, if weak and confused, have re- 
sulted from mixing various styles. Thus, 
while the placement of the Catholic Church 
on Louise Plaza at Wiesbaden (Figure 76) is 
much better than the commonly selected 
center of a regular open place, it is spoiled 



77 

WIESBADEN: 

a. Kursaal b. Kolomaden 


by the inevitable block system. Similarly, 
the horseshoe pattern formed by the Kur- 
saal Building (Figure 11) and the two colon- 
nades at Wiesbaden is quite good. How- 
ever, the absence of any kind of connection 
between structures for the sake of enclosed 
character, and the consequent isolation of 


74 







The Art of Building Cities 


the various structures, is beyond explana- 
tion when we recall the vigorous Baroque 
style, but there is here a sufficiently clear 
indication that cohesive and significant 
effects ore still attainable. 



79 

NAPLES: Piazza del Plebisdto 


to be adjusted to practical urban require- 
ments not unlike those of the present. The 
most significant arrangement of this kind is 
the well known Plaza of St. Peter's at Rome 
(Figure 78). Its principal feature, the ellipti- 
cal enclosure, is typically Roman, for it is 
not only frequently used in Rome, but un- 
doubtedly it is derived from the form of the 
ancient Roman arena and amphitheater. It 
persists partly through imitation and partly 
through its indigenous character, as is the 
case in the Piazza Navona. Remember, too, 
the circular form of the colossal Piazza del 
Popolo. From Rome this plaza style spread 
throughout Italy and beyond its boundaries. 
The Piazza del Plebiscite at Naples (Figure 
79) and the partially rounded plaza before 
the Church of St. Nicholas at Catania (Fig- 
ure 80) give evidence of this. 


In modern expansion and regulariza- 
tion of cities the recent work at Paris has 
deviated the least from the great Baroque 
tradition. Paris, having within it all of the 
difficulties of a vast metropolis, has shown 
in this that deliberately sought perspective 
effects are possible even within the limita- 
tions imposed by practical considerations. 

There were ancient forerunners of 
modern plans, especially in Rome, which, 
due to its character and importance as a 
great city, had to develop in the modern 
manner to some extent to accommodate 
enormous crowds. These plans merit care- 
ful study, for although they stem from a 
period rich in artistic creation, they also had 



The Bastille (Zwinger) at Dresden 
(Figure 81) is one of the most interesting ex- 
amples of this kind in the north. This osten- 
tatious structure was left incomplete. One 


76 


Improved Modern Systems 


side remained open, and the area between 
this open side and the nearby bank of the 
Elbe River was for a long time covered with 
a neglected foundry works. It so happened 
that on one occasion when no suitable site 
could be found in all Dresden for an eques- 
trian statue, Gottfried Semper was asked 
for an opinion on the problem. Semper 's 
reply was in the form of a new city plan, one 
of the most interesting of its kind produced 
in recent years. It outlined for Dresden the 
finest arrangement conceived since the 
building of St. Peter's. 

His plan called for razing the foundry 
works in front of the Bastille to permit the 
creation of a forum type of plaza in its place 
between the monumental buildings. Sem- 
per proposed that all of the major public 
buildings then contemplated be joined here 
to create a magnificent center of interest. 
The principal axis of the entire grouping 
was to extend from the Bastille to the Elbe. 
A new theater was to stand opposite the 
Court Church. The regal greenhouse and 
the museum were planned to balance the 
theater and to connect it with the Bastille. 
A magnificent landing place, reached by 
imposing stairs and bedecked with monu- 
mental standards like those of St. Mark's, 
was to be built at the edge of the Elbe, and 
the entirety of the splendid plaza was ulti- 
mately to be embellished with monuments. 

Had all that been faithfully carried 
out, this plaza would have been overpower- 
ing in its effect. Indeed, it would have at- 
tained lasting fame as a work of supreme 


worth. However, the convincingly lucid 
conception was stubbornly resisted by the 
dull, petty spirit of the time until it became 





81 

DRESDEN: 

Plaza of the Zwinger as Planned 
by G. Semper 

a. Zwinger c. Court Theater 

b. Court Church d. Greenhouse 

e. Museum 

vitiated and ruined. First the greenhouse 
was put on an insignificant street corner. 
Then the theater was built on the planned 


77 



The Art of Building Cities 


site, and finally the museum was used as a 
fourth side of the Plaza to shut in the 
Bastille. 

The Bastille and the museum are without 
relation to each other in this planless and 
pointless arrangement. The theater stands 
isolated in the desolate emptiness of the 
plaza. Orientation and effectiveness are 
absent. The opportunity for achieving a co- 
hesive and harmonious grouping in this 
confusion of haphazardly located build- 
ings, that stand in disarrangement like the 
merchandise in a furniture store, has been 
cast aside forever. Not only does the City of 
Dresden suffer because of this, but there is 
a genuine loss to all who appreciate fine 
art — ^to all those visitors who could have 
derived intense pleasure from the magnifi- 
cent plaza and who might have been able 
to take away with them a memory.of lasting 
satisfaction. 

Gottfried Semper had another oppor- 
tunity to propose the same conception on an 
even grander scale in the building plan for 
the new Palace buildings and Court mu- 
seum at Vienna (Figure 82). This plan, essen- 
tially the same as that proposed for Dres- 
den, is derived in style from St. Peter's at 
Rome, and, through that, from the ancient 
Roman design. The plaza will be an impe- 
rial forum in the truest sense of the term. 
Its prodigous dimensions, 788 feet long and 
427 feet wide, almost equal those of St. 
Peter's. The fates have been kinder in this 
case than they were to the Dresden plan. 
Work is progressing to its completion. 


This indicates that in spite of discour- 
agements in the trend of the times, true 
splendor and beauty are possible when a 
competent artist finds proper support 
against fashionable bad taste. 

We have had some recent success 
even in locating monuments in the grand 
manner, although, unfortunately, this has 
been an exception to the general practice. 
Vienna, particularly, has had more success 
than failure with its recently erected large 
monuments; that is, with respect to site 
selection, which is our sole consideration 
here. The excellently oriented Schubert 


83 

VIENNA: 

a. Haydn-Monument 
vor der Kirche zu 
Mariahilf 



Monument has a snug, appropriate place in 
the foliage of a city park, and the Haydn 
Monument (Figure 83) has a site well 
adapted to its dimensions. 

The lofty columna rostrata of the Tegett- 
hoff Monument is admirably suitable at the 
end of a boulevard type of thoroughfare 
like Praterstrasse. It is unfortunate that the 
round plaza of the Pratersterne (which 
could have only a slender column or obelisk 
as an appropriate form in its center) has not 
been given an architectural treatment ap- 


78 



Improved Modern Systems 



82 

VIENNA: 

A, B, C, D, E, New Palace Build- 
ing; G, Monument of Archduke 
Charles; H, Monument of Prince 
Eugene; I, Monument of the Em- 
press Maria-Theresa; K, Museum 
of Natural History; L. Museum of 
Art History. 




The Art of Building Cities 


propriate to the Monument. A vigorous col- 
umnar architectural treatment of two inter- 
laced masses , carried around the entire 
semicircle, is the only possible remedy for 
this. Would it not be possible to locate a 
future central railroad station or some simi- 
lar structure here for that purpose? 

As this goes to the printer a site for 
the Radetzky Monument has finally been 
selected in the courtyard of the War Minis- 
try Building, and hence at the edge of the 
Plaza. Its orientation submits to two alter- 
natives. It may be located with respect to 
the principal axis of the Plaza, or with re- 
spect to the principal axis of the War Minis- 
try Building. In the first case the monument 
would necessarily stand in the axis of the 
Plaza and its consequent relationship to the 
Plaza as a whole is obvious. In the second 
case, however, it would necessarily be 
moved out of the axis of the Plaza toward 
the War Ministry Building. The effect of this 
is also apparent at once, even to the unin- 
itiated; that is, we should have the proper 
result of building and monument standing 
in significant relationship to each other. 
Thus, either location would be good. 

The proportions and location of the 
Empress Maria Theresa Monument may be 
cited as evidence of masterly execution. 
The powerful architecture of the Court 
Museum, the immense size of the Plaza, and 
the bold placement of the Monument re- 
quired a finished and versatile skill. The 
grouping enhances each of the component 
parts. Even the contour of the Monument is 


in harmony with the dominating domes of 
the two museums. The relationship between 
these and the four smaller corner domes 
gives further repetition to the movement of 
the Monument's contour line — an example 
of pure three-part harmony. 

Thus we have a few examples of 
successful monument placement in recent 
years in those isolated cases where the 
abilities of the artist have, at least, pre- 
vented gross errors. In general, however, 
this particular art has suffered through the 
scattering of monuments through all the 
plazas and street corners of a city. We find 
a fountain here and a statue there. Only in 
the rarest cases do we find a successful, 
attractive grouping of monumental build- 
ings and monuments. 

Even the smallest city can have the 
pleasant advantage of a superb and dis- 
tinctive plaza if it locates all of its important 
buildings and monuments there in a well 
arranged assembly, as at an exposition, so 
that each complements the effect of the 
others. The purpose of a city plan is to make 
such an idea intelligible and attainable. No 
artistic objective, however, is more stub- 
bornly resisted by the modern block system 
than this. If the lots are plotted according to 
the unfortunate rectangular system and 
officially approved for sale, then it is use- 
less to attempt distinctive development in 
the part of the city so planned. 

That is why we find tolerable success 
in modern lot plotting only when, due to 
demolition of old buildings or removal of 


80 



Improved Modern Systems 


old fortifications, it has had to be adapted 
to the plan of an old city; while nearly all 
entirely new development, especially that 
undertaken on level ground, results in fail- 
ure. This suggests the problem of preserv- 
ing some artistic vision in this unrestricted 
rectangular plotting of lots. 

The readily conceded and conspicu- 
ous failure of city expansion during the 
past decade is clear indication that some 
foresight must be used to this end. It is gen- 
erally recognized that rectangular plotting 
is incompatible with artful resxilts, and there 
is a disposition to allow more freedom in the 
use of traditional principles in new develop- 
ment. Out of this recognition, as early as 
1874, the general conference of the German 
Association of Architects and Engineers, 
meeting in Berlin, adopted the following 
resolution (see "Deutsche Bauzeitung 
1874"): 

"1. Planning for urban expansion is 
essentially the establishment of principal 
features of the various means of commu- 
nication: streets, tramways, steamways, 
and canals, with provision for systematic 
and considerable extension. 

"2. The street plan should, at first, com- 
prise only the principal arteries, with 
careful regard to existing roads wherever 
feasible, and lesser streets as determined 
by local conditions. Plotting of lots may 
be undertaken in accordance with needs 
of the immediate future, or left to private 
activity. 

"3. The grouping of different city areas 


should be done through appropriate site 
selection and by considering character- 
istic features; compulsorily, only through 
public health laws applicable to indus- 
try." 

This was a conclusive leave-taking 
from every kind of plotting system, and thus 
it was decidedly a step in the right direction, 
although there is no tangible evidence that 
it has been heeded. An annoying prosaic 
quality hongs like a curse over plotting pro- 
cedure just as it did before the resolution 
was adopted. This is quite understandable, 
for the three points are almost wholly nega- 
tive or restrictive, which is a general char- 
acteristic of modern art criticism and es- 
thetics. They contain but a single positive 
injunction — take "careful regard to existing 
roads wherever feasible." 

This disposition to oversimplify city 
planning was, essentially, no more than a 
vote of "no confidence" in those who were 
then charged with the responsibility of 
planning. Adoption of the resolution was 
primarily intended to withdraw as much of 
this work as possible from notoriously inept 
hands. In this light, the action is truly sig- 
nificant in that it suggests the impossibility 
of achieving a good city plan through offi- 
cial action alone. To expect this would be 
just as unreasonable as to expect the build- 
ing of cathedrals, the painting of great pic- 
tures, or the composition of symphonies 
through public action. A work of art can be 
created only by an individual. An artfully 
effective city plan is truly a work of art, and 


81 



The Art of Building Cities 


not a matter of administrative routine. That 
is the essence of the entire problem. 

Even if we assume that every official 
has the ability, knowledge, background in 
travel and training, innate artistic feeling, 
and imagination to conceive of an effective 
city plan, a number of officials acting to- 
gether in a bureau would produce only bar- 
ren, pedantic stuff of a dusty official flavor. 
The department executive has no time to 
do the work himself, burdened as he is with 
conferences, reports, commissions, adminis- 
tration, and so on. The subordinate official 
dares not intrude his own ideas. He must 
abide by the official standard. His drawing 
board has no other inspiration, not that he 
isn't capable of something better, but be- 
cause his work is official. Personal ambi- 
tion, artistic individuality, and enthusiasm 
for work of one's own responsibility are fac- 
tors that do not fit into public administration. 
In fact, they are incompatible with official 
discipline. 

Thus the resolution might hove been 
reduced to the mere statement that official 
monopoly in city planning, unassisted by 
any kind of artistic force, had established 
an unfortunate precedent. It might also 
have indicated a course of future action 
and the principles to be followed. But there 
ore no such guiding formulae, everything 
being left to the favor of circumstance. This 
was also true in ancient times, but the re- 
sults then were magnificent. 

It would be a grievous error to 
assume, however, that unguided circum- 

82 


stance could today result in artful expres- 
sion, as it did in past historical eras. Al- 
though splendid plazas and city plans came 
into being without plot plans, without col- 
laboration, and without other evident pains- 
taking measures, they were not produced 
by mere chance or caprice. They developed 
gradually in a process that was not acci- 
dental. Individual builders, far from acting 
upon mere whim, unwittingly and in con- 
cert, followed the artistic tradition of the 
age, and they followed it with a confidence 
that invariably produced superior results. 

When the Roman established his 
camp he knew exactly what to do. It never 
occurred to him to depart from established 
practices, for they satisfied his requirements 
with respect to convenience and beauty. 
When the camp later developed into a city, 
it was, of course, necessary for it to have a 
forum with its grouping of temples, public 
buildings, and statues. Everyone under- 
stood these practices and conformed to 
every detail, for there was but one tradi- 
tional pattern that varied only with local 
conditions. Thus it was not chance, but a 
great artistic tradition living in the people 
that determined the character of city build- 
ing. Even without plans the ancients 
avoided aimlessness, as did the builders of 
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. 

Where would the same kind of de- 
pendence upon circumstance lead us to- 
day? Without a city plan and without stand- 
ards every builder would follow a differ- 
ent course, for there is no longer a definite 



Improved Modern Systems 

artistic tradition living within the great mass 
of the people, and the result would be an 
awkward, confused hodge-podge. We 
would have the most artless kind of devel- 
opment. Isolated blocks of houses would 
spring up. Buildings would be located here 
and there without relation to other struc- 



84 

Typical location 
of a Church 

(After Baumeister) 


tures. Precise geometric regularity would be 
the basis for plotting lots. Churches and 
monuments would be placed in the centers 
of their sites, for that is perhaps the single 
element of urban beauty that seems to be 
taken for granted today. 

R. Baumeister's work on plans for 



city expansion provides convincing proof of 
this view. While Baumeister fully supports 
the conclusions of the Berlin conference, 
and while he hurls devastating criticism at 
common modern practices in city building, 
his own city plans do not vary one iota from 
the worst of them. The proper location for 
a church, in his plans, is in the middle of a 
plaza (Figure 84). Other features of his plans 


simply illustrate modern mistakes without 
giving us a single reflection of traditional art 
(See Figures 85-88). All of them introduce 
awkward street arrangements with all of 
the consequent evils: clogged circulation; 
the impossibility of well set-off buildings; 
improper location of monuments; and the 



absence of a unified artistic character in the 
plaza as a whole. His only original propo- 
sals are "more frequent intersection of 
streets through plazas and complete free- 
dom for the setting back of building lines." 
We shall not bother to discuss these scanty 
counsels. It is most unfortunate that such 
practices have become typical, for they 
repudiate every lesson of the past and ob- 
struct the needs of art. 



87 88 


We cannot banish the difficulty by 
leaving the molding of city building to cir- 
cumstance. At all costs we must formulate 
art's claims in a positive manner for we can 
no longer rely on general feeling in matters 
of art. We must study the works of the past 
and replace our loss in artistic tradition by 


83 




The Art of Building Cities 


seeking out the elements of beauty in an- 
cient works. These elements of effective- 
ness must become essential principles of 
modern city building. Only in that way can 
we expect to progress, if indeed it is at all 
possible. After the analysis of essentials, 
which has formed the first part of our study, 
a formulation of principles will be possible 
in the final conclusions. 

Obviously a planner cannot plan a 
new city area in an artful manner without 
a definite idea of what it is to be, what pub- 
lic buildings will be in it, and what plazas 
it is to have. He cannot begin work until he 
has token probabilities of use into full ac- 
count. Only in that way can his plan con- 
form to the topography, fulfill the essential 
requirements, and permit an artistic devel- 
opment of the area. To proceed in any other 
way would be like expecting an architect 
to begin work after being told to "build 
something to cost about one hundred thou- 
sand dollars." Residential investment prop- 
erty, the architect might ask. "No." A villa? 
"No." A factory perhaps. "No." And so on. 
That kind of procedure would be ridiculous, 
even insane, and it doesn't happen because 
nobody builds a building without some pur- 
pose in mind, and consequently nobody 
commissions on architect without having a 
building program. 

Only in city building, apparently, is 
it considered sane to prepare a building 
plan without a definite building program. 
In this field it is quite usual to go ahead with 
the plan but without any idea as to how the 


new district is to be developed. The city 
block with its monotonous lot plotting is the 
striking expression of this uncertainty. Plan- 
ning attempts of this kind simply say, in 
their barren way, "We could certainly do 
something useful and beautiful, but we 
don't know what, and so we humbly lay 
aside the problem which was never stated 
in sufficient detail to suit us, and neatly 
divide the surface into regular parcels so 
that sales by the square foot may begin." 

What a departure this is from the 
ideal of the ancients! And we have not been 
indulging in caricature. This little scene is 
a true portrayal of the facts. A block system 
of this kind has been ruled for a new district 
in Vienna and stands now as the plan for 
the so called new Danube City. It is as poor 
and as awkward a plan as could be devised. 

The division of North America into 
states was a gigantic block plan that illus- 
trates the unfortunate results of planning 
without a program. This vast country was 
divided by straight lines according to de- 
grees of latitude and longitude, and its con- 
sequent imperfections are striking. At the 
time it was done the country was unknown. 
Having no past, and representing but so 
many square miles of land to civilization, 
America's future development could not be 
foreseen. This same rectangular system of 
dividing land, when applied to cities, was 
perhaps satisfactory for the cities of Amer- 
ica, Australia, and other new countries. The 
inhabitants of those cities were primarily 
concerned with survival. They lived only 


84 



Improved Modern Systems 


for gainful production, and produced only 
to live. It mattered little to them that they 
were packed up in barracks like herring in 
casks. 

Good planning depends upon the ex- 
istence of an actual program. The neces- 
sary preliminary studies can be made by 
official agencies or by expert commissions. 
They should include: 

A. An estimation of population growth 
in the planned area projected fifty years 
into the future; a study of the needed type 
of circulation and buildings, including the 
desirable location for dwellings, large 
homes, commercial buildings, and factories, 
for the purpose of either grouping similar 
types of structures or for planning mixed 
uses. 

The objectioh that such estimates 
cannot be made with even approximate ac- 
curacy is but a poor excuse to escape a re- 
sponsibility which, admittedly, is a difficult 
one. Whoever goes into the history of a city, 
carefully studies its commercial and indus- 
trial development along with related statis- 
tical material, and probes into local charac- 
teristics, will be sufficiently equipped with 
points of reference to project a great many 
factors into the immediate future with rea- 
sonable safety, and there is no need for 
more than this. Clearly, if there is not cour- 
age enough to project something of a def- 
inite nature, then the kind of dwellings built 
expressly for let will spring up everywhere, 
for this dreary and monotonous type of 
structure can be put up on any kind of site. 


The absorption of cities by blocks of rent 
houses should be checked lest it become 
complete as an expression of uncertainty 
and indecision. This has already been done 
at Villenviertel (Wahring Cottage Town at 
Vienna, etc.), and it is essential to any plan 
for development of character and individ- 
uality. 

The worst type of rent dwelling sec- 
tion may be observed in embryo in the grad- 
ual development of Danube City now get- 
ting under way. It certainly should not be 
necessary to allow this premature spoiling 
of such a prominent place which might well 
become a showplace of the future in Vienna. 
Consider Budapest where stand the finest 
and most greatly admired urban areas 
along the Danube, where the river is made 
a magnificent feature of the City itself. 
Sooner or later the Danube can have an 
equally fine effect on Vienna. It may be 
slow in coming, but come it must because 
all of the geographical requirements for it 
are present. Should, then, a gradual slum 
development be permitted in the meantime? 
Should not the senseless and immensely 
costly rectangular system be abandoned? 
Who is there that would undertake to de- 
fend it today? Or does anyone think that 
further development of Vienna should be 
renounced for all time? The indiscriminate 
building of barracks on the magnificent sites 
along the Danube should be stopped with- 
out delay. Otherwise, the potential vistas 
and mountain panoramas of its bonks will 
be permanently spoiled by dismal hovels. 


85 



The Art of Building Cities 


Perhaps this example might be inter- 
preted as an indication that planning is pos- 
sible without a program. To our statement 
that planning requires a program, should 
be added the proviso that unless a program 
is formulated, actual development will fol- 
low the poorest of all possible alternatives. 

B. On the basis of these essential 
studies a calculation should be made of the 
probable number, size, and form of public 
buildings needed in the planned area. This 
can be greatly facilitated by statistical ma- 
terial that is readily available in most cases. 
An estimate of population growth will de- 
termine the number and size of churches, 
schools, public buildings, market buildings, 
public gardens, and perhaps even of a 
theater. 

After this is done the actual planning 
con begin in determining the best location 
and grouping of the various buildings. Pub- 
lic competitions should be held for this. In 
addition to the data already described, cer- 
tain other information should be assembled 
for use in such public competitions. It should 
include a relief map showing existing roads 
and features of special interest in the area, 
data pertaining to prevailing winds, water 
levels, and other factors of particular local 
importance. 

Contestants should strive for the most 
suitable and artful location and grouping of 
necessary public buildings, parks, and so 
on. For example, a number of parks might 
be spaced at equal distances from each 


other, and arranged so that each would be 
enclosed by houses rather than left com- 
pletely open (for reasons that have been 
discussed). Access to the interior of each 
park could be provided by two or more ap- 
propriate portals of varied design. An ar- 
rangement like this can afford the greatest 
possible protection to park areas and es- 
tablish worthwhile sites. At the same time 
it can provide a first-rate defense against 
encroachment of the block system. 

If, on the contrary, it is desired to spread 
parks widely apart, then it is necessary to 
group public buildings like churches, par- 
sonages, schools, etc. about them in a suit- 
able manner. In any event it is desirable to 
group monuments, fountains, and public 
buildings so that, at least, they can permit 
a plaza of effective expanse, and if there 
are to be a number of plazas it is likewise 
better to have groupings of these plazas 
than to scatter them widely apart. Each 
plaza should have its individual character 
and interest as determined by its location, 
size, and shape, as well as a suitable ar- 
rangement of street openings and a closed- 
in form. Consideration should be given to 
good perspectives of natural features. The 
propitious horse-shoe form of plaza favored 
in Baroque planning, entrance courts like 
the ancient atrium, gnd other like forms of 
known effectiveness should be kept in 
mind for use in opportune circumstances. 
Churches and monumental buildings 
should not, of course, be left free standing. 
Rather, they should form part of the plaza 


86 



Improved Modern Systems 


enclosure so that good locations for future 
monuments and fountains will be provided 
around the edges of the plaza. 

Rugged terrain, water courses, and 
existing roads should not be ruthlessly ob- 
literated for the sake of a stupid rectangu- 
larity. On the contrary, they should present 
welcome occasions for deviating street lines 
and other informalities. Irregularities of this 
kind, so often removed at tremendous ex- 
pense in these days, are absolute necessi- 
ties. Without them a certain rigidity and 
cold affectation descends upon even the 
finest works. Moreover, it is precisely these 
irregularities that provide easy orientation 
in the street network. 

They have value, too, from the stand- 
point of public health. Circuitous and 
crooked streets in old cities break the wind 
so that even at high velocity it sweeps only 
over rooftops. In contrast to this, high winds 
blow through che regularized streets of mod- 
ern cities to the point of discomfort and 
unhealthiness. It is easy to become con- 
vinced of this in any place where modern 
city development stands adjacent to on old 
district. Perhaps the best example is in wind- 
blessed Vienna. While it is possible for a 
pedestrian to stroll without discomfort in 
the old inner city, he is immediately envel- 
oped in clouds of dust when he steps into a 
modern part of the City. Open plazas, where 
street openings draw in wind from every 
direction (like the new City Hall Plaza 
of Vienna) feature beautiful wind spirals 
throughout the year — dust columns in sum- 


mer and snow flurries in winter. This is one 
of the pretty spectacles made possible by 
modem' advances in city building! 

Buildings like Gothic cathedrals that 
rise high above surrounding roof tops have 
a special effect on air currents in that they 
break the wind and send it burrowing into 
the hollows. For that reason the narrow cir- 
cumferential passages around cathedrals 
ore rarely free of wind. An amusing old 
doggerel says this of the Cathedral of St. 
Stephan in Vienna: 

St. Stephan's does in Vienna bide. 

It's grey without and dork inside. 

Oh have you seen the front view here? 

Then walk around and see the rear. 

There you will have another view 

If blowing wind allows you to. 

Perhaps it would be well to locate such a 
church so that the choir is against the pre- 
vailing wind. Thus the silhouette of the choir 
and the high towers would form, in their 
entirety, an oblique surface to deflect brisk 
wind currents to higher levels rather than 
toward the ground; and the roof of the nave, 
like an inverted ship's keel, would divide 
the winds. Vitruvius pointed out that the 
orientation of streets should be determined 
as much by the direction of prevailing 
winds as by the points of the compass. Our 
highly scientific modern city building has 
forgotten all about that, and has developed 
a facility for making every possible mistake. 

These various preliminaries would 
result in a number of planned building sites, 
provision for a large park arrangement with 


87 



The Art of Building Cities 


an unbroken enclosure of houses, and plans 
for a number of plazas of a certain size and 
form. After that, attention should be given 
to the establishment of the principal ways 
of communication and to other local con- 
siderations. This brings us to the starting 
point for carrying out the plan within the 
terms of the resolution of the Berlin Confer- 
ence of the Engineers and Architects As- 
sociation. 

Nevertheless the task is scarcely half 
done, for the features of the plan, as com- 
pleted up to this point, tend to succumb to 
the rectangular block system. Great care is 
needed to see that a properly initiated work 
is preserved from degeneration. The super- 
vision of good taste and a continued appli- 
cation of artistic ability should be provided 
for by means of repeated competitions, or 
by other means, during the course of devel- 
opment. 

It would be profitable to combine the 
competition for a plaza, or for a larger de- 
velopment, with competitions for the vari- 
ous public buildings that are to be located 
around the plaza. Perhaps that is the best 
way to insure perfect harmony between 
buildings and plazas, for it would require 
the design of the entirety as a unified con- 
ception. Freed from the customary restric- 
tions of a minutely defined parcel of land, 
the competing architects could achieve a 
variety and vigor in their buildings far su- 
perior to the ungainliness which the block 
system enforces upon our finest structures. 
The Baroque masters were able to derive 


an abundance of variety in motif from 
simple regularity, but complete domination 
of rectangularity in plotting has since com- 
pressed every structural form into a single 
motif, and the least interesting of them all, 
the cube. 

There must be freedom in the design 
of a plaza to bring life and movement into 
the architectural ensemble, and there must 
be sustained watchfulness over details to 
prevent a well conceived arrangement 
from coming to a bad end. City planning is 
truly a vast and arduous undertaking. 

The history of a venerable old city is 
like a ledger to account for the tremendous 
sums of spiritual, mental, and artistic cap- 
ital that have been invested in it. Capital of 
that kind pays perpetual dividends by its 
glorious effect on mankind. Close study will 
indicate that the value of this dividend, like 
a material dividend, is in proportion to the 
amount of invested capital, and that reali- 
zation of dividend depends upon wise in- 
vestment of capital. 

There is disgracefully little invest- 
ment of this kind of capital in a modern 
block layout. Block sizes and street widths 
are generally fixed by some kind of ordi- 
nance or resolution. After that, plans for 
new developments can be made by the low- 
liest copyist in the bureau, or by its janitor, 
if we are not too particular about neatness. 
Such planning is without artistic value, and, 
as may be observed in tiresome modern 
cities, it produces no worthwhile effects. It 
contributes nothing to the satisfaction of the 



Improved Modern Systems 


urban citizen, gives him no cause for pride 
in his city or reason for loyalty to it. This 
consideration should enable our calculat- 
ing, materialistic age to see the value of an 
artful city arrangement. 

A great deal has been written about 
the importance of fine arts to the national 
economy. It will be generally agreed that 
the pure ideal significance of art is its own 
end, perhaps even the highest end of 
human activity and civilized effort, but 
there are social and economic values in- 
herent in art — ^the stimulation of local pa- 
triotism and fondness for home; attraction 
of foreign travelers and increased business 
with them. Surely in view of this the coldest 
official economist can be induced to sanc- 
tion expenditures for good taste in city 
planning. 

Whatever approach is made to the 
problem of city planning inescapably leads 
to the conclusion that the subject has been 
too lightly dealt with in recent times. It 
needs much more intelligent handling es- 
pecially with respect to its neglected artis- 
tic aspects. Real success will depend upon 
acting with the utmost effort and persever- 
ance, since the task is one of bringing about 
a revival of art in building cities. This means 
discarding all of the trivial practices that 
dominate it today; the replacement of ex- 
isting standards by their direct opposites. 

Vision itself, the nature of perception 
of space, upon which every architectural 
effect depends, should be the basis for re- 
solving all of the conflicting factors in city 


building. The eye is always at the converg- 
ing point of a pyramid of visual lines ex- 
tending from the object perceived, and va- 
rious perceived objects are in a visual circle 
having the eye as its center, so that, with 
respect to the eye, they form a concave line. 
This is the natural basis of the principle of 
perspective that was so effectively used by 
the Baroque masters. Only by taking full 
account of the nature of perspective to make 
a maximum number of related objects per- 
ceptible at a single glance can we attain 
the best effects. 

The modern block produces effects 
that work directly counter to the laws of 
perspective. The conflict may be most suc- 
cinctly expressed by saying that art de- 
mands concavity while maximum land 
value insists upon convexity. The impasse 
could not become more absolute than it is 
now, but a good city plan can be produced 
without going to either extreme. Rather, 
taking into consideration the particular cir- 
cumstances of each separate cose, it should 
seek to reconcile the two extremes in meas- 
ures that provide for economical develop- 
ment that can satisfy the requirements of 
artful arrangement. One of the best meth- 
ods for accomplishing this has already been 
suggested; that is, emphasis on artful ar- 
rangement in the design of principal plazas 
and streets, with secondary areas planned 
for the most economical use of land. It may 
be shown, however, that rectangular plot- 
ting may, to a certain extent, be reconciled 
with art in city building. Figure 89 shows 


89 



The Art of Building Cities 


the placement of a chtirch in the Baroque 
manner somewhat like that shown in Fig- 
ure 90. The church (a) is built into other struc- 
tures, and a fairly wide street opens into it. 
Its plaza is enclosed on three sides and has 
two suitable sites (g and h) for monuments 
or fountains. The adjoining buildings are: 
(b) the rectory which opens directly into the 



89 


sacristy, and (c) a boy's school which pro- 
vides access to church services without 
going out of doors in bad weather. The 
large court (d), separated from the church 
by a high wall, can be used for gymnastics. 
The other side could be used in the same 
way for a girl's school (e) with a kindergar- 
ten (f). The three remaining parcels (i, j, and 
k) could be used for dwellings or for addi- 
tional school purposes. Both of the courts 
(d and f) could be made most attractive by 
trees, shrubs, and vines along the garden 
wall. Planting could also brighten the plaza 
or moderately long avenue opening behind 
the church. 


This design has been purposely se- 
lected because it is readily adaptable to 
various kinds of administrative centers. The 
beauty of the calm, enclosed church plaza, 
the economy achieved by building the 
church against other buildings, and the ac- 
cessibility of the church from school and 
rectory are obvious. Such an arrangement 
could be worked out for any small church 
with the usual structural appurtenances. A 
fine effect could be achieved by so group- 
ing church, rectory, and school with per- 
haps a fountain, shrine, or small monument, 
with suitable planting and street arrange- 
ment. 

The great urban communities grew 
up around market places dominated by 
city halls. Additional buildings like banks, 
brokerage houses, museums, markets, and 
stores were built around the square to form 
a structural ensemble. That developed a 
large structural mass subsequently divided 
into numerous tracts. A sufficiently large, 
almost square parcel would now be re- 
quired for this kind of grouping under the 



prevailing block system. To strike off such 
an unfavorable site from the beginning 
would leave nothing for the architect to do 


90 


Improved Modern Systems 


except lay out interior courts within build- 
ings that would inevitably assume the form 
of cubes, since each would hov^ four sim- 
ilar facades of approximately the same 
height. The various buildings would not be 
visible from a single point of view, but 
would, rather, come into the line of a spec- 
tator's vision one after the other as he 
walked around corners. Thus the entire 
grouping of buildings would have cubic 
form, and there would be no opportunity to 
seek a maximum of effect with a minimum 
of cost. But if the architect who designs a 
major building also has a hand in planning 
the plaza and its surroundings from the be- 
ginning, the results can be quite different. 
He will be able to project a number of build- 
ings, large and small, on the basis of exist- 
ing needs, and he can group them around 
a concave line according to the laws of per- 
spective. In that way he could give us 
plazas of outstanding interest instead of 
dark, void inner courts. Different conditions 
will suggest varied combinations, arid the 
more freedom allowed the architect, the 
more power will he have to achieve pic- 
turesque groupings. 

Those who prefer not to depart con- 
siderably from rectangular plotting may 
well consider the simple arrangement 
sketched in Figure 91. In this grouping the 
principal building (A), with a convenient 
entrance ramp, forms the end of a plaza (I) 
enclosed on three sides, with monuments, 
standards, or lamps on each side. B and C 
are secondary buildings joined to the prin- 


cipal building by colonnades (a and b). This 
simple yet superb plaza of stylistic regular- 
ity makes the best possible use of the three 
monumental fagades that enclose it, all of 
which can be seen at a single glance. Pos- 
terior fagades dominate the small plazas 
II and III, while plazas IV, V, and VI provide 
partial views of the principal fagade. Under 



91 


the block system all of these impressive ele- 
vations would be relegated to interior courts 
where nobody would see them. Each plaza 
in this group could bear its stamp of indi- 
viduality. The main plaza (I) could be en- 
tirely enclosed by arcades incorporating 
the colonnades (a and b) with a fine result- 
ant effect, for they could extend around the 
plaza without intersection, and the whole 
effect would be appreciable from a single 
point of view. Moreover, they would pro- 
vide convenient access between plazas II 
and VI, and between III and V. A fountain 
could be placed in one of the two remaining 
plazas (II and III), with a monument in the 
other, to give distinct character to each. The 
smaller plazas (V and VI), withdrawn as 


The Art of Building Cities 


they are from the principal line of traffic, 
have a special ^ality that lends itself ex- 
cellently to restaurants or cafes with front 
terraces, or to towering monuments. 

An arrangement of this kind is 
readily adaptable to a plan for the building 
complex of a great university, academy, or 
technical high school. For example, the 
chemical laboratory and other collections 
could be located on one side and the an- 
atomical institute and medical faculty on 
the other, with the principal building in the 
middle. Certainly the architect's freedom 
to group buildings gives him a more fruitful 
opportunity than the thankless necessity of 
forcing everything into a clumsy cube form 
without projecting variations of any kind. 



92 


Now let us consider another example, 
the location of a theater. These buildings 
are usually left free-standing as a measure 


of protection against fire. However, by re- 
sorting to the use of arcades a theater can be 
used to for,m part of an enclosed plaza. Gal- 
leries could extend over the arcades on one 
or two levels to serve as emergency exits. 
If they are of fire-proof construction they 

93 

VIENNA: 

New Market 

would not endanger adjoining buildings. 
Finished in flagstone, they would, in fact, 
provide the most desirable kind of vantage 
points for the operation of fire fighting 
equipment. This blending of ancient prin- 
ciples with modern needs underlies the ar- 
rangement of a typical situation shown in 
Figure 92 . The rounded projection (a) of 
the auditorium requires the withdrawal of 
building arcades (b and c), lamp standards 
(d and e), monument (g), and fountain (f) 
toward one end of the main plaza (I). The 
posterior fagade of the theater could pro- 
vide a valuable monumental wall to ter- 
minate Plaza II, while the important wide 
streets III and IV, from which entrance 
ramps give access to the theater, would 
provide the needed space for stationing ve- 
hicles without cluttering the main plaza. 

All of these simple types, as we have 
said, have been purposely adapted as 
closely as possible to modern regularized 
plotting in order to demonstrate that en- 
closed plazas and other worthwhile fea- 


^ L 



92 


Improved Modern Systems 


tures are attainable without excessive pre- 
paratory effort or impracticable expense. 
The essential needs lie in preserving 
enough free space to accommodate future 
buildings and for somewhat more favorable 
street extensions than are provided by the 



rectangular system. It will not be difficult 
to prepare in advance for every circum- 
stance if care is taken to see that streets 
opening into plazas do not cut through 
them, as is the case in Figures 90, 91, and 
92, but, on the contrary, take different direc- 
tions in emanating from the plaza as shown 
in Figure 93. Application of this venerable 
principle would arrange street openings 
and locations for monuments or fountains 
in the usual small plaza in the manner in- 
dicated by Figure 94. It is applied even in 
the kind of rectangular plot shown in Fig- 
ure 95. Such a variation in the block system 
would offer the additional advantages to 
the movement of vehicular traffic that ac- 
crue from street junctions as compared with 
intersections (see pages 60-61). No greater 
mistake could be made, however, than to 
adopt this detail as a rigid practice in plan- 
ning an entire city area. Avoidance of repe- 
tition of uniform pattern is a fundamental 
necessity, since stereotyped street designs 


result in an intolerably commonplace and 
tiresome effect. It is important to get as 
much variety as possible into street design. 
A disposition of streets like that shown in 
Figure 95 should be employed only spar- 
ingly in places where there is likely to be a 
future complex of buildings with imposing 
plazas. Even the free arrangement of a sub- 
urban pattern would become boring if ex- 
tended over too wide an area. 

It is absolutely necessary to divide 
the movement of traffic only in those places 
where several streets converge at one point 
as in Figure 96. That invariably results in 
a poor plaza with respect both to vistas and 
traffic movement. This fair favorite of mod- 
ern city building should be eliminated wher- 
ever it appears as a by-product of lot plot- 
ting, and the method for doing away with 
the weird phenomenon is quite simple. We 
simply need to put an irregular building 
site in the place of the irregular plaza as in 
Figure 97. This is but to follow the wise an- 
cient practice of concealing unpleasant ir- 
regularities within built-over areas, and 



thus within the walls of buildings, which 
effectively eliminates them. 

The detailed solution of such a prob- 
lem will naturally be different in each case. 


93 


The Art of Building Cities 


When one or two principal streets converge 
on one of these points, they should be left 
undisturbed while the openings of secon- 
dary streets should be eliminated. These 
troublesome converging points can be 
avoided by changing the direction, curv- 
ing, or breaking street lines. This would be 
of additional value in bringing about worth- 



while irregularities in the street pattern 
which are so greatly needed to overcome 
the banal and all pervasive symmetry of 
the drawing board. Under some circum- 
stances such a converging point could be 
replanned as a public pork surrounded by 
houses. 

The course of this investigation 
clearly indicates that there is no need to 
design modern city plans in the mechan- 
ical manner that has become common; that 
there is no need to exclude the splendor of 
art in building cities; and that there is no 
need to renounce the accomplishment of 


the past. It is not true that modern traffic 
requires it. It is not true that public health 
requires it. Indifference and a lack of intel- 
ligence and good will condemn the modern 
city dweller to live his life out in a formless 
mass of monotonous dwellings and streets. 
It is true, of course, that the beneficent 
power of habit gradually dulls our senses 
to the impressions they receive, but how 
sadly this modern superficiality envelops 
us when we return from Florence or Venice! 
Perhaps that explains why the fortunate in- 
habitants of these cities that have been built 



with such artful magnificence are rarely 
disposed to leave them, while we, on the 
other hand, must annually escape to take 
refuge in nature for a few weeks in order to 
endure the city for the rest of the year. 


94 


XII 


N THE last chapter we purposely con- 
sidered only the simplest city building 
. forms so that we might evaluate them 
according to the great standards of the past 
and suggest improvements. In this chapter 
we shall round off the study and bring it to 
a conclusion with an example in monumen- 
tal style. 

Perhaps Vienna, more than any other 
modern metropolis, makes an ideal subject 
for such a study. It has experienced an ex- 
ceptional expansion that brought extraor- 
dinary expedients into use at a highly 
propitious time. Art and esthetics were flour- 
ishing throughout central Europe, while the 
attainments of the older Munich building 
period had reached their peak. The great 
ferment among the various schools of style 
had not subsided, and the proponents were 
in the happy state of high agitation. But the 
great work of the period was not born of 
zeal alone. There was prudent caution in 
action, and if actual accomplishment does 
not now appear to have fulfilled the lofty 
expectations of the era that planned it, we 
may be reconciled by the fact that nothing 
has been completely spoiled. That is con- 
trary to common opinion, but careful inves- 
tigation will bear it out. We should simply 


Artistic Principles in City Planning— 
An Illustration 

refuse to look upon an ungainly work as a 
complete work, however difficult it may be 
to remove its defects. 

The imposing monumental buildings 
are, of course, structurally complete and 
offer no opportunity for alteration. We are 
fortunate to hove them as they are, and con- 
sequently we would not wish to alter the 
buildings themselves, but look at the plazas 
and streets that surround them! They are 
all poorly and improperly laid out from the 
point of view of artful effect. Even so, the 
general plotting scheme, as part of the com- 
plete development, might have been much 
worse, even hopelessly irreclaimable, had 
not a certain degree of foresight been ap- 
plied in it. The basis for a good present-day 
arrangement is rooted in three fundamental 
ideas that influenced the original develop- 
ment: 

First, there was a general disposition 
to leave as much land as possible free of 
construction. This can assist us in working 
out improvements today. 

Secondly, there was a tendency to 
follow the example of Paris in planning 
street extensions. This, too, made for more 
openness of arrangement. In many ways it 
recalled the Baroque style, as may be noted 


95 




Artistic Principles in City Planning 


particularly in the perspective effect of 
the Schwarzenberg Palace and its plaza. 
Vienna with its models of original Baroque 
was more faithful to the style than was 
Paris where it was handled in a spurious, 
second-hand manner. But in fairness it 
should be said that this style was in disre- 
pute at that time. It was the most despised of 
all styles, the very word "Baroque" having 
become a synonym for "corrupt," "ugly," 
or "degenerate." 

Finally, the greatest organizational 
genius of the time was displayed by the 
deliberate manner in which the less impor- 
tant elements of development were begun 
first, to be followed by monumental struc- 
tures, with the most striking building com- 
plex, the Court Museum and Palace, saved 
until the end. This employed foresight that 
proved to be sound in the light of subse- 
quent developments, and in its clever han- 
dling of such an expanse of buildings it 
demonstrated consummate, matured artis- 
tic ability. Genuine ability guided by high 
purpose reached its zenith in the majestic 
plaza of the New Palace. The right planner 
appeared at the propitious moment. 

That planner could have been found, 
and would have been found earlier, in the 
artist who was able to prepare such a grand 
plan for Dresden, except for the fact that 
Gottfried Semper was then in obscurity in 
Zurich, and his unrealized plan for Dresden 
was all but forgotten. Then too, it may be 
questioned, in view of the development of 
our art, whether a plan for city development 


done in the Semper manner would have 
been understood then, nor is it likely that its 
execution would have been supported, for 
there was widespread doubt as to the pos- 
sibility of such coherence in building opera- 
tions. The vision of that day was far more 
restricted than ours. A colossal plan of this 
kind, worked out in the ancient manner, 
would have been regarded as a Utopian 
dream. Execution had to await the ripening 
of time. When that came about the propi- 
tious moment was at hand, and Semper was 
called in. Had he been summoned earlier, 
his plan would have been too much for con- 
temporary power of comprehension, and it 
would probably have remained on paper, 
whereas it is now progressing to a fortunate 
completion. 

For all that, the present situation may 
be summarized as follows: buildings are 
well done; plotting is poor, but fortunately 
there is enough open space available to 
permit correction of the plotting errors. This 
can be shown most clearly in actual cases 
by means of sketches for the reorganization 
of port of Vienna's city plan without need 
for further description. 

Figure 98 shows a design for the re- 
planning of the plaza of the Votive Church. 
Under present conditions this is one of those 
wedge-shaped plazas, given over, with its 
broken enclosure, to all of the attendant 
mistakes. There is no distinction between 
the plaza and the streets (Wdhringerstrasse 
and Universitdtstrasse). The plaza simply 
melts into its surroundings. There is no in- 


97 



The Art of Building Cities 


timation of the kind of enclosed character 
that is so necessary to on artistic impres- 
sion. Church, university, chemical labora- 
tory, and the different blocks of houses 
stand detached, unsupported, and without 
collective effect. Placement of the various 
structures fails to draw from them a harmo- 
nious effect. Instead, each building seems 
to strike a different melody in a different 
key. The gothic Votive Church, the Univer- 
sity in noblest Renaissance style, and the 
charmingly varied houses, seen in one 
view, produce the kind of effect that could 
be expected if a Bach fugue, the grand 
finale of a Mozart opera, and a couplet of 
Offenbach should be heard at one time. In- 
tolerable! Positively intolerable! Consider 
what that would do to the nerves, to say 
nothing of its mere disagreeable quality! 
The juxtaposition of the house cupolas on 
Wdhringstrasse and the noble, delicate 
structure of the Votive Church produces a 
harsh effect that is just as intolerable. The 
facades of these houses are ably designed 
and stately enough in themselves, but they 
should not hove been built opposite the 
Votive Church. 

The obtrusive arched pagoda spires 
seem to outbid the nearby older cupolas for 
attention, giving a particularly unpleasant 
effect. How con we achieve a unified, artis- 
tic, well executed plaza effect, or any kind 
of worthwhile architectural effect, if each 
architect in his self-sufficiency seeks only 
to outdo the work of his colleague? This nul- 
lifies the collective effect of the plaza just 


as the effect of a dramatic scene would be 
ruined if the second and third bit players 
insisted on playing the principal role and 
could not be restrained by the director or 
monitor. We need the strong hand of a kind 
of monitor for building technique, and we 
need it most urgently because a mistake in 
the realm of architecture can not be easily 
corrected. 

The situation described above, never- 
theless, can be corrected by treating its sec- 
ond principal defect— its excessive size. 
The vastness of this empty space tends to 
reduce the effect of the magnificent church 
building to a minimum. Imagine the Votive 
Church on the site of Notre Dame of Paris 
or on the site of St. Stephan's at Vienna. 
What an impression would it then make! 
To reverse conditions, imagine St. Stephan's 
instead of the Votive Church on this form- 
less, desolate monster plaza, and its effect 
would shrink to an extraordinary degree. 
We frequently hear the statement that the 
Votive Church is too small; that it looks like 
a miniature model; that it has an odd ap- 
pearance from the side. Placement of the 
building and the awkward planning of the 
entirety are solely responsible for this. The 
explanation of the unsatisfactory appear- 
ance lies, not in the skilfully built building, 
but in the plaza. It has already been pointed 
out that a Gothic church should not be left 
free standing or located in a manner that 
permits an open and distant view of its 
profile. 

This exposes the source of the trou- 



Artistic Principles in City Planning 

ble, and serves as the basis for proposing a 
remedy. Existing architectural effects must 
be kept separate from each other, and the 
beauty of the Votive Church must be given 
a proper setting according to the best prac- 
tice in locating such buildings and accord- 
ing to the lessons of past success in plan- 
ning church plazas. Appreciation of the 
exterior of a Gothic church requires an ap- 
propriate plaza form based on a square of 
depth before the principal fagade with its 
lofty towers. There should be a separate, 
distinct plaza for the side elevation to 
separate the view of the high towers from 
the view of the asymmetrical, oblique slope 
of the choir. Finally, the chapel crowns are 
best set off to be seen at an angle, for that 
gives a fine perspective of the buttresses 
and numerous pinnacles. 

The great expanse of open space in 
this case makes it possible to fulfill these 
conditions today as may be seen in Figure 
98. This shows a large atrium to provide a 
proper setting for the principal fagade of 
the church, and, by means of buildings 
erected on parcels G and H, to isolate the 
building from its unfavorable surroundings. 
The plaza would then be 246 feet wide 
(wider by one-half than St. Mark's) and 
341 feet long, dimensions which are still too 
great in comparison with fine old examples 
of church plazas. The atrium would be, like 
ancient models, a quadratic plaza, and the 
length of its flanks would not be much 
greater than the width of the church f agade. 
The overwhelming majority of old church 


plazas cover as much area as is covered by 
the church building itself, but a plaza ap- 
proximately three times as expansive may 
be planned if the utmost in size and state- 
liness is desired. A plaza larger than that 
would be out of proportion to the structure*' 
and would diminish its effect. The atrium 
in this case (D) would assume these maxi- 
mum dimensions, which is justified by the 
maximum dimensions of the adjacent 
streets, and maximum dimensions in every- 
thing which may be seen here in accord- 
ance to the prevailing custom. The Gothic 
arcade to surround the atrium should be 
carefully worked out in every detail to con- 
form to the style of the church (naturally in 
stone) with precaution to see that it remains 
subordinant to the church f agade. For this 
reason the arcade should be as high and 
slender as is consistent with a single story, 
while the structural groupings G and H be- 
hind the arcade should be just high enough 
to obstruct a view of the disturbing tin cu- 
polas beyond them. This new building 
should be worked out so that the building 
height is relatively low on the side toward 
the atrium, and high on the side toward the 
street. The entrances c, d, and e, with the 
corners of the plaza, could be designed to 
give the entire enclosure a monumental 
effect. The long sides of the plaza could be 
gradually embellished with monuments, 
frescoes, and the like, so that finally the 
place would be abundant in works of art 
like the renowned Campo Santo at Pisa and 
pthers of the kind. The renaaining area of 


99 



The Art of Building Cities 


such a fine plaza would also be appropri- 
ate for numerous large and small monu- 
ments, whereas the existing formless ex- 
panse has no suitable sites for them. One or 
two fountains might well be located here, 
for they hove belonged to the atrium since 
ancient times. They should be placed in the 
area immediately in front of the church but 
in a manner that leaves . a wide, unob- 
structed corridor in the central axis from e 
to A. Large trees and shrubbery might ap- 
propriately be planted along the sloping 
sides from e, the principal entrance. 

Even the recreational value of this 
atrium would be greater than the present 
widely spread and purposeless arrange- 
ment, due to proper development rather 
than to dimensions. Hygienic considera- 
tions, which are generally brought to the 
defense of excessive openness, can scarcely 
justify the present arrangement of the plaza. 
It is intolerably exposed to high wind, in- 
clement weather, heat, and dust, as well as 
to the din of the streets, and the incessant 
clanging of trams. Consequently it is usu- 
ally deserted. On the other hand, the pro- 
posed atrium, protected against wind and 
dust, segregated from the bustle of the 
streets, with shady, quiet retreat in the ar- 
cades and planted area near the principal 
entrance, would surely attract a willing 
public seeking relaxation. For that reason 
it would be well to permit shops, especially 
for light refreshments, in the sloping walk- 
ways near the entrance, e. With proper su- 
pervision other needed places might be 


located near the other entrances. For the 
sake of maintaining clean air direct con- 
nections between the plaza and street move- 
ment should be avoided. A small waiting 
room might be built in one of the structural 
groupings (G and H) and made accessible 
from the arcade. This kind of development 
would make the atrium much more valu- 
able from a hygienic standpoint than the 
present expansive and poorly arranged 
plaza. The reader who has the inclination 
may judge the artistic value of the present 
plaza for himself. 

Artists can find solutions to condi- 
tions like these and thereby provide an oc- 
casion for the investment of artistic capital 
in a city plan. The conditions must be stated 
in a manner that can draw forth artistic 
solutions, for if we begin with conditions 
that specify a block layout we can not be 
surprised if artistic solutions fail to develop. 

Buildings on G would extend Univer- 
sitdtstrasse before the buildings standing 
opposite, and the structural mass on H 
would bring Wdhringerstrasse down past 
the houses. This demarks the part of the 
entire plan that adjoins the Ringstrasse. 
The entrance, e, should be worked out as a 
monumental arched portal, not in Gothic 
style, but, on the exterior, in the best Italian 
Renaissance like the University, for both 
portal and University will be seen simulta- 
neously. Style unity conforming to the in- 
side of the atrium is unnecessary since this 
outer architecture and the Gothic Votive 
Church with the Gothic arcade could never 


100 



Artistic Principles in City Planning 


be seen at the same time. Conflict in style 
would thus be resolved by moving the boun- 
dary line between styles to the interior of 
a wall — the same expedient that can be 
used to conceal irregularities in building 
sites. We should always follow the principle 
of harmonizing everything that may be 
seen in one view, and we need not concern 
ourselves with that which cannot be seen. 
That is the road to practical effect, and it 
will never lead us astray. 

Emplacements for large fountains 
would be appropriate at f and g near the 
large archway at e. The present plaza is so 
immense that even when all this has been 
carried out there will still be an open area 
in front of the atrium large enough to serve 
as a site for the Votive Church itself. Thus 
it would be appropriate to locate a monu- 
ment of the greatest dimensions in it at K. 
Assuming that such a monument could 
have the projected architectural back- 
ground (from f to g) its effect would attract 
the sketch books of countless artists. 

Problems of meeting other require- 
ments in the plan are simpler. They seem 
to solve themselves. Building on the parcel 
J, with the archway a, begins the formation 
of a desirable plaza (E) to set off the lateral 
fagade. The archway (a) is on the proper 
side of the church to provide the best lateral 
view, and it harmonizes with the entrance 
(c) to the atrium without producing a tire- 
some, stiff, symmetrical effect, which would 
be inappropriate to the form of the plaza as 
well as to the asymmetrical church eleva- 


tion. The area at (b) should be as narrow as 
possible and, for the sake of contrast with 
the more expansive plazas, there should be 
no passage through it. The same should 
apply to the area at (d). Adjacent construc- 
tion should be brought up as closely as pos- 
sible to the church, so that its two identical 
lateral fagades could present two different 
impressions — a free-standing effect in one 
instance and a snug, built-in effect in the 
other. This would correspond to the place- 
ment of most old cathedrals. It would pro- 
vide distinctly different approaches to the 
atrium at (c) and (d). There would be four 
portals through the arcade at one entrance 
and only three on the other. 

It may be thought that the prelacy 
should be moved from B to F and connected 
directly with the church. There can be no 
objection to this from a purely artistic point 
of view. Plaza F serves to enhance the view 
of the chapel crown, the final stipulation of 
the problem, but it is, perhaps, not essential. 

The City Hall Plaza (Figure 99) pre- 
sents a similar problem. Open space ex- 
tends in every direction from the so-called 
plaza which is without enclosed character 
or cohesion. There is simply no plaza effect 
or artistic effect of any kind. Again, there is 
too much open space. We can readily im- 
agine the impression of immensity that the 
new City Hall would moke if it were fitted 
more closely into surrounding building, but 
in its present situation it does not appear to 
be as large as it actually is. This is an in- 
variable source of disappointment to 


101 





Artistic Principles in City Planning 

strangers who usually say that the building 
is not as imposing as its pictures had led 
them to believe. 

There is a single viewpoint at one 
side from which the building seems to grow 
to gigantic proportions. If the plan had, in 
advance, been exactly reversed with re- 
spect to the Ringstrasse its effect would be 
like a view through a magnifying glass, so 
much so that the apparent grandeur due 
to the effect of contrast would be more con- 
vincing than the judgment of the eyes. Un- 
doubtedly the City Hall of Vienna should 
have an enclosed plaza of expanse with 
limited dimensions and appropriate stylistic 
treatment. 

The present situation of the new Burg- 
theater (Figure 99) is even more unfortu- 
nate. What abundant effects could have 
been derived by the old masters from such 
a glorious structure with its monumental 
fagades! The different parts of the structure 
— on one side a great hall, on the other a 
theater — ^halfway form a marvelous plaza. 
But where is the other half? 

The plaza (K) on the side toward Tein- 
faltstrasse is irremediable. The back f agade, 
which might have served admirably as the 
enclosing wall of a plaza, is similarly lost 
to advantageous use. Only the side toward 
Lowelstrasse can now be used in the forma- 
tion of an attractive plaza, for here alone is 
there enough open space. Such a plan could 
do away with the present isolation of the 
structural entirety which stands at present 
without cohesion, like an erratic block. Its 


poorest effect, however, is presented by the 
principal fagade toward Ringstrasse. In 
this case the ground plan of the building 
requires completely different surroundings. 
The rounded protrusion needs compensa- 
tory treatment in the entrance area between 
(n) and (o) and some recession from street 
traffic. At present, instead of this, a street 
railway track runs closely by with annoy- 
ing obtrusiveness. The resultant sensation 
is as oppressive as the habit some men have 
of constantly closing in upon persons with 
whom they ore conversing until, at length, 
they seize the very coat buttons of their 
listeners. If we withdraw, the offender fol- 
lows rmtil his very nose is almost upon us. 
Unquestionably, we breathe more freely 
when we are relieved of the oppressiveness. 

The tramway produces that kind of 
oppressiveness here where a certain free 
openness is essential. Thus, the tramway 
could best be removed and relocated to run 
in Reichsratstrasse from the Votive Church 
to the Parliament House and by the City 
Hall, and this could be done without detri- 
mental effect to development along its line. 

These are the problems to be met in 
designing plazas in this area, and they have 
led to the plan shown in Figure 99. 

Partial building up of the large open 
spaces could produce a City Hall Square 
(G) of character. This is wholly a problem 
in utilizing the architecture of the City Hall 
— ^the given element — ^to permit develop- 
ment of true originality. This could be ac- 
comphshed by extending the form of the 


103 



The Art of Building Cities 


lateral arcades of the City Hall around the 
entire plaza. In connection with this, four 
corner towers erected at c, d, e, and f would 
complement the City Hall fagade. The cor- 
ner towers built into the arcade should be 
of small dimensions and less imposing in 
design in order to accent the powerful effect 
of the City Hall. For the same reason, build- 
ings on the parcels E and F should not be 
built to the full height of the typical Vienna 
rent house. They should be, rather, one or 
two stories lower. At H the plaza wall, 
which also serves as on enclosing wall to 
Ringstrasse, should be opened to permit a 
vista upon the tower from A. Triumphal 
arches at (a) and (b) could be crowned with 
monuments similar to those of Scaliger at 
Verona but of larger size. The middle arch 
might bear an equestrian statue, perhaps 
of some hero of Vienna's defense against 
the Turks. Other smaller monuments could 
be located in front of the corner towers at 
c, d, e, and f, and in fact along the entire 
circumference of the plaza. Fountains could 
be located on the sites (g) and (h), but it 
would be even better to put permanent con- 
cert pavilions there for regular musical pro- 
grams. A large cafe could be provided for 
on one side, with a restaurant on the other 
side. Obviously this type of development 
would eliminate the present style conflict 
which arises from the varying architectural 
treatment of different buildings that may be 
seen simultaneously. 

The formation of Plaza J is also ex- 
plained by the plan. The symmetry of the 

104 


theater building suggests the structural ad- 
dition (B) (for administrative offices or for 
some independent purpose), which extends 
slightly into the park (C). This could be con- 
nected with the theater by a colonnade from 
(1) to (m), the upper level of which could 
give access to and from the theater. The 
areas at (n) and (o) provide prominent and 
appropriate sites for large monuments. 

The manner in which the proposed 
arrangement extends to the University in 
one direction and to the Parliament House 
in the other is shown in Figure 101. 

Two similar parcels on either side of 
the City Hall are used in this plan to en- 
hance the approach to the principal f agades 
of the University and the Parliament House 
which front on Ringstrasse. This was a 
happy solution although it required some 
compromise with convenience, since the ap- 
proach could not be made as expansive as 
might have been desired. The present situ- 
ation of the Parliament House is especially 
awkward, requiring a struggle to reach the 
building from the Ringstrasse. There can be 
no doubt that the inadequacies of this place 
in the development of the City from the 
Court Museum to the Votive Church are at- 
tributable to the Ringstrasse. This is cer- 
tainly true in the case of the University. It 
should have a quiet, dignified plaza worked 
out in a manner appropriate to the building, 
but this is scarcely possible now. On the 
other hand the Parliament House is suffi- 
ciently withdrawn from the street to allow 
for remedy. It would scarcely be possible to 



Artistic Principles in City Planning 


find a more striking example of inexpedi- 
ency and conflict between building and 
plaza than this. The architectural features 
and detail of the building put it in the style 
classification of the so-called Greek Renais- 
sance. However, the general grouping of 
the structural parts (middle section, con- 
nected corner sections, approach, and small 
garden enclosures) unmistakably indicate 
a full-fledged and exceptional Baroque lay- 
out, of which the ancient Greeks had not 
the slightest foreboding. 

Thus in the Parliament House we 



100 

Plan for a Plaza before the Parliament House, Vienna 

have the essentials of a Baroque building 
with its characteristic formal garden (See 
Figure 100, from a to b). But where is the 
general form so essential to these features? 
Can we withhold from a building designed 
for powerful perspective effect a foreground 


that permits an adequate view? It is un- 
thinkable, but that is precisely what is done 
by modern city building in its absolute in- 
ability to understand the necessities of art, 
to say nothing of its inability to satisfy them. 
Only gradual conditioning to this situation 
makes it tolerable to us. In terms of art, the 
harsh conflict is intolerable. The Ringstrasse 
must be kept at a distance from this build- 
ing, which must be given a foreground 
plaza. When this is done the building will, 
for the first time, unfold its full charm. We 
can get a faint idea of the possible result 
by looking at this splendid structure in win- 
ter between leafless trees from the Temple 
of Theseus across the expanse of the Ring- 
strasse. It may be said that the City of 
Vienna has never seen its Parliament House 
at its best, for the proper viewpoints are 
spoiled by the Ringstrasse. It is exactly as 
though one should hang a fine tapestry 
with its face to the wall. The architectural 
beauty of the structure is simply not put in 
its proper setting along this segment of the 
Ringstrasse, and the result is that its power 
and expression remain unrealized. It is still 
possible to improve conditions in this case. 
In Figure 100 one attempt at improvement 
is sketched. 

The open areas , would be enclosed 
by colonnades on both sides, from (c) to (g) 
and from (d) to (h). They would be of one- 
level construction and they would be 
brought to the height of the ground floor 
level of the Parliament House. They should 
be given a Romanesque treatment on the 


105 



The Art of Building Cities 


outside corresponding to the style of the 
building. Within, they should be of colum- 
nar design with horizontal entablature. Es- 
sentially this would be following the treat- 
ment of old city gates, except that it calls 
for less massive construction with closer 
adherence to the form and dimensions of 
the Parliament House. 

There should be an attic on both sides 
to correspond in relief and embellishment 
to the principal building. It should be seg- 
mented by triumphal arches at (e) and (f) 
which would bear elevated quadrigae like 
those of the principal building. Open access 
to the park would be provided at the en- 
trances (g) and (h). This would also provide 
a welcome thoroughfare from the plaza to 
the inner city, which will be needed in the 
future. Such a plaza would permit a more 
expansive approach to the building than 
was originally planned, and it would pro- 
vide locations for splendid monuments. 

A small slice from the park opposite 
the Parliament House could produce this 
superior plaza, which, in turn, would pro- 
vide sites for great monuments, and permit 
superior treatment of the original architec- 
tural grouping. Although this would be an 
advantageous type of development, it is the '< 
kind of work that is seldom undertaken 
today. 

As we continue along the way from 
the Votive Church to the Court Museum, 
as it is at present, there remains a final un- 
rhythmic place — the wedge-shaped plaza 
of the Palace of Justice. This, too, owes its 


origin to the bending of the Ringstrasse 
polygons and the accompanying breaching 
of rectangular plotting in this particular 
area. This ugly triangular form is found in 
nearly every new city, and for the same 
reason. In no instance has it resulted in de- 
velopment of beauty. There is no formula 
for improving such plazas. They should be 
built over. 

In this case it seems best to build so 
that structures face the Ringstrasse and 
back toward the Palace of Justice in a four 
cornered plaza fX/ in Figure 101), with the 
foremost "point" of the building in imposing 
rounded form. 

The diameter of the rounded part of 
the building could be made great enough 
to obtain a truly striking effect. As sketched 
in Figure 101, it is 164 feet, and thus greater 
than that of the Mausoleum of Augustus in 
Rome, if less than that of the immense Maus- 
oleum of Hadrian (now Castle of St. Angelo), 
which is 240 feet. 

This building should be worked out 
in the best architectural style to harmonize 
with the nearby Court Museum. The prob- 
lem, then, is to bring this kind of arrange- 
ment into the present situation. Another 
question arises as to the purpose to be 
served by such a building. It is difficult to 
think of this place as a site for rent houses. 
Its form at once suggests a use as a mauso- 
leum or as a crypt with adjoining cloisters, 
but it could also serve as a museum or 
auditorium. ,, 

It is well known that no suitable place 


106 



Artistic Principles in City Planning 


101 

COMPOSITE PLAN 
Explanation 

Plazas 

I, II, IV. New Plazas Adjacent to the Votive 
Church 

III. Atrium of the Votive Church 

V. University Plaza 

VI. City Hall Plaza 

VII. Large Plaza of the Theater 

VIII. Small Plaza of the Theater 

IX. Plaza of the Parliament House 

X. Garden Plaza 

XI. Plaza of the Palace of Justice 

XII. New Palace Square 

Buildings 

g. Proposed Addition to Burgtheater 

h. Temple of Theseus 

j. Site for Statue of Goethe 

k. Unspecified New Construction 

l. Palace of Justice 

m. New Wing of Imperial Palace 

n. Proposed Triumphal Arch 

a. Chemical Laboratory 

b. Votive Church 

c. Site for Large Monument 

d. University 

e. City Hall 

f. Burgtheater 


The Art of Building Cities 


for a Mercantile Museum has been found 
in the center of the City, and there have 
been complaints of the lack of a Concert 
Hall. We will not find plazas for them in the 
clouds. We must rather put them in places 
which practical considerations indicate as 
suitable for them, and in that way we can 
arrive at worth while city arrangement. 

Results of the complete study are 
.shown in the composite plan (Figure 101). 
While it shows the proposed new route of 
the tramway, it does not show the suggested 
connection with the Wahringer branch be- 
hind the Votive Church in Schwarzpanier 
Street, which is outside of the area sketched. 
This would permit the making of connec- 
tions in all directions with just as much con- 
venience as is the case at present, and it 
would shift the movement of traffic in a way 
that would change it from a nuisance to a 
utility. 

Benefits of this rearrangement would 
be: (1) elimination of conflict in architec- 
tural style; (2) enhancement of the effect of 
each monumental building; (3) a group of 
plazas with character and individuality; 
and (4) a suitable location for assembling 
numerous large, medium, and small monu- 
ments. 

Each new plaza would provide anew 
vista. Nearest to the majestic new Palace 
Square (XII), truly grandiose imperial 
forum, would be the fore plaza of the Parli- 
ament, a kind of regal forum (IX) worked 
out in classical spirit. Appurtenant to the 
building that houses the Parliament, this 


plaza could become an artistic symbol of 
the imperial spirit, and this should govern 
the choice of monuments that would be 
gradually assembled in it. 

A kind of cupola of foliage might be 
worked out close by the park opposite the 
Temple of Theseus (h), which could serve 
as an appropriate location for the proposed 
monument to Goethe. This plaza, too, would 
have a quality about it to suggest the forum 
and the ancient manner. With the beautiful 
park and the mausoleum-like building (k), 
this plaza would have the effect of grouping 
a number of harmonious works in a suffi- 
ciently close proximity to meet stylistic re- 
quirements while, at the same time, keeping 
each building separate. 

A few steps from this plaza could 
take the observer into entirely different sur- 
roundings of the plazas of the theater (VII 
and VIII), where it would be appropriate to 
put up monuments in honor of great writers 
and artists. Still another completely differ- 
ent and distinct picture would be presented 
by the City Hall Plaza (VI) with its Gothic 
arcade. Monuments erected here could ap- 
propriately be given over to the memory of 
persons who have been famous in the his- 
tory of the City. 

It is even possible to provide a fore 
plaza for the University Buildings that could 
strikingly enhance the effect of the fine por- 
tico, if the monotonous line of the Ring- 
strasse is moved back, with the space thus 
gained filled in with massive groupings of 
trees and shrubs. 


108 



Artistic Principles in City Planning 

A completely distinct and individual 
impression would be presented by the 
Atrium of the Votive Church. Monuments to 
men of learning would be most appropriate 
in this quiet, peaceful place. 

Thus, this series of plazas would 
bring into being suitable sites for monu- 
ments according to the character of each, 
while at present there is not one suitable 
location for a monument in the area due 


to the excessive openness of arrangement. 

This explanation may be considered 
as an illustration of the manner in which 
artistic results can be achieved in the monu- 
mental center of a great city by following 
the teachings of history and the examples 
of beautiful old cities. Other solutions may 
be possible, but the same fundamentals and 
methods must be adhered to unless art is to 
be renounced from the beginning. 


109 



XIII 


Conclusion 


^HUS far there have been some ex- 
periments in bringing the old man- 
ner of city building with forum-like 
plazas into modern favor. Artists and ar- 
chitects are enthusiastically restoring 
ancient plazas, and this work, to which we 
are indebted for many splendid glimpses 
at a vanished ideal, indicates that accom- 
plishment of equal beauty is within the 
reach of our time. 

All of the recent experiments have 
one element in common. They are all on 
paper only. Thirty years ago, E. Forster, in 
his biography of the architect J. G. Muller 
(page 39), wrote: 

"The fact that most of the new large 
buildings in Munich were isolated 
and, consequently, without the com- 
bined effect that could have been 
attained by grouping, despite their 
deficiencies and inconsistencies, led 
Muller to advocate the planning of a 
single plaza on which cathedral, city 
hall, library, exchange, and other 
like buildings might be grouped." 
We can readily understand why this 
purely academic plan was never carried 
out, since it was proposed only as an illus- 
trative study. Later, however, in 1848, Muller 
participated in a competition for the has 


tonds of the Rue Royale in Brussels by sub- 
mitting a plan in the manner of the ancient 
forum. The plan was excellently developed, 
highly esteemed, but never carried out. 

We have already mentioned the fate 
of G. Semper's plan for Dresden which met 
the destiny that seems to hover over all at- 
tempts at art in city building in our time, 
but it did excite a lively interest in influen- 
tial circles, and there was even a start to- 
ward carrying it out. But the plan, although 
begun under such apparently favorable 
auspices, will not be successful. A certain 
courageous spirit underlies works of that 
kind which run counter to past experience. 
One might almost persuade himself that 
our excessively prosaic generation is simply 
incapable of greatness or beauty in this 
particular province. 

Perhaps, however, as has been sug- 
gested, a lucky star hovers over the Vienna 
plan. We cannot expect colossal new devel- 
opment in Vienna. The monumental part of 
the city is completed, leaving only lighter 
and less important structures to serve as the 
material for producing the proper frame- 
work. The main element— the picture— is 
ready. Only the frame for it is lacking. 
There is something compelling in this state 
of things that should mean that sooner or 


no 



Conclusion 


later the solution will, and must, come forth. 
Regardless of when this may happen, it 
seems possible to foresee that it will pro- 
duce a magnificent, forum-like plaza — a 
new Plaza of the Palace — which, in fact, is 
already nearing completion. In the majesty 
of its conception it will surpass anything 
that has been done since the building of St. 
Peter's at Rome. 

Should this not, then, give us new 
courage? To some extent it is possible to 
forecast its development. This one accom- 
plishment is well under way, and the time 
is not far distant when the second, opposite 
development will be undertaken. The old 
palace gate will go with the completion of 
the new palace building, and that will, in 
time, bring into being a great and magnifi- 
cent plaza. That will mark the decisive mo- 
ment for determining the future of the whole 
arrangement — the time for dealing with the 
two planned, arch-like closings of the Ring- 
strasse, which can, for the first time, bring 
artistic unity into the whole grouping. Un- 
doubtedly it will then be necessary to pro- 
ject an enclosure of consistent style toward 
the imperial stables by extending the en- 
tire lower half of the Court Museum in cor- 
responding architectural style. 

The feeling of immensity, which even 
now is engendered by this plaza, will cer- 
tainly exert a strong esthetic restraint. 
Surely the formless wedge-shaped plaza 
before the Palace of Justice and the whole 
of the remaining plaza confusion around 
the Parliament buildings will not be much 


longer endured. When something does hap- 
pen here it should be directed toward the 
production of a great and model plaza for 
the new Palace. 

The problem then will not be one of 
dealing with the pros and cons of opinion, 
as we may expect a general agreement on 
this. It will be, rather, the problem of find- 
ing the means by which other buildings 
may be brought to completion. This should 
entail no great difficulty, for by that time 
Vienna will have a much greater popula- 
tion than it has now; there will have been 
very Httle new building in the center, as is 
evident from the sketch outlined; and pro- 
ductive private purposes will require a num- 
ber of large parcels for new building. The 
yield of these building sites will be suffi- 
cient to defray the cost of the requisite ar- 
cades so that there will remain only the 
basic question os to whether or not such an 
arrangement will be harmonious. 

To the layman this may seem to be a 
difficult decision to make, for if the experi- 
ment in building up these parcels should 
fail, the result would be a great misfortune, 
with the existing buildings left to stand as 
they are. This permits a concrete sugges- 
tion, not for castles in the air, but for the 
definite procedure suggested here, which 
is quite practicable, not only in this instance 
but for application elsewhere. We might 
select, for example, one feature such as the 
atrium before the Votive Church for a dem- 
onstration of general practice in building 
church plazas and make a temporary ex- 


111 



The Art of Building Cities 


hibition model of it from boards and plaster. 
It could be accurately built to show the 
effect of the planned building up of the 
open area. This would enable everyone, in- 
cluding laymen, to appraise the value of 
the new effect, and to express a worthwhile 
opinion as to whether or not the proposed 
development should be undertaken. The 
technician can readily guarantee the pro- 
priety of the project from the plan. 

Under no circumstances should the 
building parcels be given over to the unre- 
stricted use of the purchasers, either in this 
instance or in the areas proposed for devel- 
opment around the City Hall Plaza. That 
would certainly spoil everything from the 
start, since each of the different architects 
would attempt to put his competitors in the 
shade. Rather, all plans for joint building 
should be prepared in advance so that 
there may be on attempt at achieving the 
desired harmonious collective effect, with 
everything subordinated to the effect of the 
principal building. An obligation should 
attach to every parcel requiring develop- 
ment without essential departure from the 
established plan. This is the lesson of recent 
development which indicates that we can- 
not expect this kind of benefit through any 
other means. This is especially necessary 
today when there are so many predilections 
in style and tendencies in taste, with nobody 
particularly concerned about his neighbor; 
much more necessary than in ancient times, 
when there was as yet no debate as to style, 
and buildings seemed to fall into good 


collective arrangement without constraint. 

The bare text of a few standards 
given to the prospective owner as a kind of 
dowry can scarcely be expected to suffice 
in such a difficult situation. The weirdest 
kind of invasions could probably break 
through even the most stringent general 
standards. The procedure we have sug- 
gested could determine the manner of car- 
rying out the building operation. An actual 
example, such as we have given, can clar- 
ify the problem much more readily than can 
academic theories on the nature of artistic 
city building. 

Other types of regulation should be 
dealt with in the same manner. For ex- 
ample, the archways in Vienna which de- 
termine the formation of the Schwarzen- 
berg Plaza, the Plaza of St. Charles' Church, 
and the Freihaus or the eventual parcelling 
out of the Linienwall area, should be re- 
garded not merely as technical problems, 
but also as artistic matters of supreme 
importance. 

Certainly the fact that we are ap- 
proaching these problems with more re- 
sponsibility and deliberation than was the 
case a few decades ago is evidence that we 
are accumulating more experience in this 
province. With all of the recognized mis- 
takes, as well as the good examples, that 
are at hand, a heavy guilt must be assumed 
today by anyone who spoils a city plan. 
There is no necessity for glossing over the 
problem now as there was a few decades 
ago when cities suddenly began to grow 


112 



Conclusion 


in undreamed of ways, and when adequate 
powers for coping with this onset were lack- 
ing. Every technician engaged in site plan- 
ning today has an obligation to give careful 
consideration to every factor, including the 
artistic factor, and it is to be hoped that the 
still customary block pattern as a plan for 
city development will be finally cast aside 


by its remaining sluggard adherents. With 
greater respect given to the artistic phase 
of city building, especially in the conduct 
of competitions, we can develop greater ar- 
tistic powers, and we shall be able to accom- 
plish many fine things even though the 
high ideal of the ancients may remain xm- 
attainable to us for the calculable future. 


113 



"YEARLY twenty years ago the 
Princeton Architectural Associa- 
1 \ tion offered to make it possible for 

Nils Hammerstrand to translate Sitte's mas- 
terpiece; but at that time the University had 
to decline the offer because the task had al- 
ready been pre-empted by another scholar 
who apparently never completed it. Per- 
haps in the late twenties little attention 
would have been paid to Sitte's artistic 
foundations by an America obsessed with 
the speculative mania and well satisfied 
that its mushroom urban growth was both 
natural and healthy. 

Today, however, there is no question 
about Sitte's timeliness. We have learned 
our lessons and are ready to admit that 
there has been something radically wrong 
in the type of controls which have shaped 
the growth of our metropolitan areas, and 
even our smaller cities. The brief penetrat- 
ing note by Charles Stewart, who made the 
present translation, contains real food for 
thought. As he makes clear, had there been 
some understanding of Sitte in America be- 
fore the adoption in 1916 of the first Zoning 
Ordinance by New York, perhaps Ameri- 


Supplementary Chapter 
The Significance Today of Sitte's 
Artistic Fundamentals 
by Arthur C. Holden 

cans might have avoided some of the mis- 
takes of the great building boom. 

Our greatest fault has been that we 
were unconscious of the type and source of 
controls which were moulding our destiny. 
We were naive enough to believe that 
mushroom growth was the natural course 
of city development. 

Those who really controlled city 
growth were the surveyors who laid out rec- 
tangular streets and lots and the lawyers 
who composed the descriptions and obliga- 
tions that were written into deeds and mort- 
gage contracts. 

Americans accepted these limitations 
meekly and were slow to realize that the 
legal documents which "protected their 
rights" on the one hand deprived them on 
the other of the liberty of planning for 
proper group relationships. Not so with 
Sitte; he assails the "geometricians" who 
depended upon T-square and triangle. He 
decries the interminable vistas; the build- 
ings, all parallel, facing on streets of un- 
varied width. He speaks of the lack of 
understanding of the need for out-of-door 
enclosed space so arranged as to give the 


114 



Supplementary Chapter by Arthur C. Holden 


citizens a consciousness of and an apprecia- 
tion of the function of the buildings which 
face upon out-of-door enclosures. 

Sitte's artistic fundamentals contrib- 
ute a meaning to the design and growth of 
cities. One must confess, nevertheless, that 
to a large number of Americans the use of 
the term "artistic" may convey an idea of 
superficiality. Unfortunately we have been 
led to think that, since artistic merit is so fre- 
quently judged by the eye, it is a merit that 
is the result of surface appearances rather 
than the result of inherent fundamentals. 
It is partly for this reason that American 
cities have been shaped more by engineer- 
ing decisions than by decisions based upon 
artistic fundamentals. Unfortunately, when 
engineering is only half understood it is 
even more superficial than art can be when 
understanding of fundamentals is lacking. 

The rectilinear street system was usu- 
ally imposed by ill-equipped engineers who 
were afraid to transcribe or lay out more 
complicated relationships. When engineers 
of this type superimposed a gridiron pat- 
tern on an uneven terrain, they got around 
the difficulties by recommending that the 
grades be changed to fit the plan, ignoring 
the fact that cut and fill, though relatively 
inexpensive on a drawing board, may often 
be extravagant in reality. Of course there 
are great advantages in straight streets and 
in level streets, but not when carried to in- 
terminable lengths, nor when unrelieved by 
changes in width or other interruptions. 

Once introduced, there was a sec- 


ondary reason for the popularity of the rec- 
tilinear street system. It was easily suscep- 
tible of division into marketable standard 
building lots. During the period of most 
rapid growth, the extension of American 
cities was largely financed by the sole of 
building lots. The varied functions to which 
the design of the city should have been 
adapted were subordinated to the idea of 
land and homes considered as exchange- 
able merchandise. 

A glance at some of the efforts to cor- 
rect past errors reveals the need for un- 
derstanding artistic fundamentals. For ex- 
ample, zoning regulations were introduced 
to protect property on the one hand and the 
public interest on the other. But to assure 
the constitutionality of zoning, ordinances 
were so worded as to make the provisions 
uniformly applicable to the properties af- 
fected. Zoning laws established . uniform 
"protective" set-back lines for private resi- 
dences. Instead of producing harmony in 
design, the result has been to accentuate 
the damage already done by the exagger- 
ated parallelism of the street. The houses 
have been made to elbow one another like 
long lines of soldiers standing at right-dress. 
Practically no improvement in the distribu- 
tion of space was thereby effected. On the 
contrary, to assure the maintenance of 
one's legal rights, it was necessary to build 
up to legal limits, especially at the front of 
the lot. This prevented concert in planning 
and tended to choke expression of the rela- 
tionship between neighboring properties. 


115 



Sitte had absolutely no expenence 
with skyscraper architectrire. It is 
Ate thrt he evei expected that otti cihes 
Wd be encuniered by great mae^ ef 
toll bAdings ~ 

STey tended to dwarf the mo^ of 
L buildings. Nevertheless, the principles 

which Sitte laid down ore as 

ble today to the enlarged masses of modern 

cities as they were to the market squares 


The Art of Building Cities 
Roman times , or the ploxos of medieval 
commerid Myot be- 
tween the high buildings by “ 

which low buildings still stand, the sky 

saapeisof lower Manhattan wouldbeweU 

mgh'^nbeaiable. For a moment let us think 
d this space between the upper stories of 
the skyscrapers as a fortuitous md per- 
haps unconsdouB application of Sitte s m- 
tisttc fundamentals. The pedestlion at street 





Supplementary Chapter by Arthur C. Holden 


level, however, is still lost between long 
lines of parallel fagades. Now let us imagine 
that it were possible discreetly to eliminate 
some of the less useful and often obsolete 
lower structures. No longer would we have 
buildings ranged in meaningless parallel 
rows. We would achieve open spaces be- 
tween buildings. The pedestrian would find 
relief from long tunnel-like streets. Small 
open plazas would give meaning to the re- 
lationship of the . buildings facing upon 
them. These outdoor spaces would provide 
improved outlook, as well as light and air 
for the occupants, who live and work be- 
hind building walls. 

For example, had the principles of 
Sitte been fully appreciated in America at 
the time the elder J. P. Morgan was project- 
ing his new banking house in New York, it 
is unlikely that he would have permitted his 
architects to plan a structure crowding out 
to the extremity of the lot which he owned. 
Had the Morgan Bank been set back and the 
Assay office (whose usefulness was to be 
short lived) been omitted altogether, we 
should have had an application of artistic 
fundamentals, as can be seen in the draw- 
ing, that would have added material as well 
as esthetic value to the neighborhood. 

Although Sitte devotes a great deal 
of space to the design of the plaza, he con- 
tinually refers to the need of satisfying the 
impression produced upon the eye. He was 
never an enthusiast for the French School, 
which sought to develop great vistas and 
long distance axes. In Sitte's day the work 


of Baron Haussmann was the outstanding 
European example of planning in the grand 
manner. In America Major Pierre Charles 
L'Enfant, who had been trained in the ear- 
lier French School of the 18th Century, was 
given the commission of creating a new 
capital city. He made a plan which de- 
pended upon grand vistas. L'Enfant, and 
especially the successors of L'Enfant, in 
their enthusiasm for vistas and angles, gave 
insufficient thought to the importance of the 
grouping of buildings to express human 
scale and human relationships. The great 
avenues, circles, and squares of Washing- 
ton are bordered by notoriously bad build- 
ing sites. The planning of the space be- 
tween buildings has been, to say the least, 
incoherent. 

I should like to cite a particular in- 
stance token from the planning of Wash- 
ington, as carried out by the successors of 
L'Enfant, where one of the principles enun- 
ciated by Sitte would, if followed, have 
given infinitely greater artistic merit to one 
of the greatest monuments of modern times, 
namely the Lincoln Memorial designed by 
Henry Bacon. 

The Washington Monument had al- 
ready been located off the intersection of 
the two principal axes of the Mall. In the 
revised plan of Washington the offset was 
"corrected" to give the illusion that the mon- 
ument was on axis. When the Lincoln Me- 
morial was located, instead of adopting the 
bent axis advocated by Sitte for long vistas. 


117 



The Art of Building Cities 


the Memorial was placed on a prolongation 
of the line of the Washington Monument 
and Capitol. As a result, the visitor emerg- 
ing from the Lincoln Memorial finds the 
dome of the Capitol blotted out by the shaft 
of the Washington Monument. Had the axis 
been bent and the Washington Monument 
kept off the center, the visitor could have 
been made visually conscious in one mo- 
ment of the relationship between the Na- 
tion's Capitol and the monuments of two of 
its greatest heroes. Unfortunately, because 
of failure to understand artistic fundamen- 
tals, the visitor will never be able to emerge 
from the Lincoln Memorial chamber and 
look past the shaft of the Washington Mon- 
ument to the dome of the capitol beyond. 


The more is the pity because the 
French school of planning for long vistas 
on the grand scale is dependent upon mo- 
mentary impressions derived at the instant 
of approach and departure. Sitte wrote at a 
time when grand distances and incoherent 
spaces had deprived men of a sense of con- 
tact with architecture. He strove to make 
architecture the interpreter of human rela- 
tions which it ought to be. 

It was Sitte's contention that funda- 
mentals, though long neglected, can be un- 
covered. Even the gridiron pattern of the 
modern American city is not hopeless. 
Space can be opened up. Design can be 
achieved by thinking more of the grouping 
of buildings and by planning for the out- 


Had the LINCOLN MEMOR-IALbeen placed 

ON THE prolongation OF THE TRUE. AXIS THE 
.Monument would not have obliterated the 
VIEW OF the Capitol as at present and there 
VOULD HAVE been A SUPERB VIEW OF THE CaPITOL 
Dome past the Monument. The Refiectiom Basih 
MIGHT HAVE BEEN PLACED ON A TURNED AX.I5 DRAWH 
BETWEEN THE MONUMENT AND THE LINCOLK MEMORIAL 


t 


WHITE. HOUSE 



CAPITOL 




ON RlSINCr GROUND 360 FEET EAST OF THE 

White House axis. Now that the Jefferson 
Memorial has been placed at the far end 

OF THE AXIS a CLEAR, VIEW IS POSSIBLE. 

The Washington Monument was placed 

leo FEET SOUTH OF THE TRUE AXIS OF THE 

Capitol. In the replanning of i<ioi the 
Mall was turned off the true axis and 

CENTERED ON THE MOHUMEIST 


103 


118 



Supplementary Chapter by Arthur C. Holden 


door space between them than by confin- 
ing our efforts to the design of individual 
fagades which can never be seen anyway 
except as part of unrelated compositions. 
See illustration of replanning of Blooms- 
bury by London County Council. 

Let us throw away the horse-blinders 
which architects have worn to shut out the 
rest of the city while they wasted a dispro- 
portionate amount of their energy on street 
frontage alone. Perhaps it is this waste of 
energy on a type of design which does not 
seem to matter in the hodge-podge of the 
modern city that has given so large a per- 
centage of the public a regrettably limited 
understanding of the fuller services which 
the architects could render, if they based 
their work, as Sitte urged, upon the artistic 
fundamentals of city building. 

When once the thread of artistic tra- 
dition* has been severed, whether we re- 
alize it or not, man through habit will follow 
such other traditions as he is able to recog- 
nize. Let us ask ourselves what sort of tradi- 
tion we have been following. If we can un- 
derstand the forces which direct our actions, 
we may find that the outlook for the mod- 
ern city is not hopeless. Having lost contact 
with Sitte's artistic fundamentals, perhaps 
we have been groping blindly, following 
the path of engineering trivialities. At this 
point we must stress the difference between 
the fundamentals of engineering and en- 
gineering trivialities. In its fundamentals, 
engineering is as much an art as orchitec- 

*Se© page 82. 



London County Council Plan for University 
Precinct, Bloomsbury, 

Courtesy Macmillan and Co., Ltd., London 


ture. Men who ore guided by engineering 
fundamentals are on sound artistic ground. 

Let us picture for a moment a street 
of detached homes for the medium income 
group in any of our modern cities. Between 
the side walls there is a space of perhaps 
eight to fifteen feet. Why are houses so 
placed that the side windows look directly 


119 


The Art of Building Cities 


at the walls of the adjoining buildings? 
Most houses of this type are built for sale. 
Would they not be more salable and better 
to live in if they were planned as a group 
to give each householder more light, air, 
and outlook? Strange as it may seem, the 
average developer has preferred uniform- 
ity of placement on the lot, as giving him 
the advantages of uniformity and economy 
in water, gas, electricity, and sewer connec- 
tion, and enabling the man with the instru- 
ment who lays out the houses on the lots to 
complete his work in less time than if he had 
to work to on irregular plan. Thus, in his 
zeal for understanding without understand- 
ing of fundamentals, the developer has 
practiced a false economy. 

Although Sitte has pointed out the 
objectionable results of streets laid out 
by geometricians, and certainly residential 
streets have suffered in this regard, he does 
not specifically discuss the design of resi- 
dential neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the 
artistic fundamentals discussed by Sitte in 
connection with public squares may be 
found to be applicable to the design of 
space between residences, even between 
the type known as "small homes." It is here 
that the lawyers and salesmen have offered 
resistance more difficult to overcome even 
than that of the geometricians. If homes are 


to be grouped around an open space and 
that space is to be given, by the skillful ar- 
rangement of the masses of the buildings 
and the growth of trees and shrubs, the 
feeling of an out-of-doors room, then assur- 
edly the harmony of the out-of-doors space 
cannot be maintained unless neighbors con- 
cede certain rights of mutual enjoyment to 
one another. It is this type of communal 
planning for common enjoyment that is 
often frowned upon by lawyers and sales- 
men, because it complicates sales. They 
even object to common runs of sewers and 
branch water lines because they make 
properties interdependent, hence less free 
for exploitation. By preventing the exploita- 
tion of land (which means the overdevelop- 
ment or abuse of particular pieces of land) 
the incentive to buy and sell land for 
speculative profit is greatly reduced. Sitte's 
charge that the geometricians have played 
into the hands of the salesmen is well 
founded. The developers of cities have lost 
the tradition which bound them to artistic 
and engineering fundamentals and have 
followed instead the tradition of artistic and 
engineering trivialities. Enough damage 
has been done, one would think, in the half 
century since Sitte wrote, to cause Ameri- 
cans of today to heed the warning and re- 
turn to fundamentals. 


120 



Author's Preface 


The pros and cons of various city planning systems have 
become pressing questions of the time. In this, as in all current issues, 
opinions of wide variance ore being expressed. In general, however, 
there is a widespread favorable recognition of the great technical 
accomplishment that has come about in transportation, in the develop- 
ment of building sites, and especially in hygienic improvement. In 
contrast to this, there is an equally widespread rejection, even ridicule 
and contempt, of the artistic failure of modern city building. Although 
much has been accomplished in the realm of the technical, what we 
have achieved in the artistic is next to nothing. Our noblest monu- 
mental buildings generally stand in badly conceived settings and 
awkward surroundings. 

This has been our motive for studying the arrangement of fine 
old plazas, or public squares, and the plans of magnificent ancient 
cities to discover the elements of their beauty, so that those elements 
might be set forth in a summary of principles which, properly under- 
stood, could be employed to produce equally fine effects. This being 
the guiding purpose, the work is neither a history of city building nor 
a polemical piece. The object, rather, is to contribute a resume of prac- 
tices and principles to the great body of practical esthetics that can be 
followed by the practicing city planner. 

There is included a quantity of valuable illustrative material, 
particularly of city plan detail, which has been set up, as far as pos- 
sible, to a uniform scale. In some cases, where this was not possible, 
overage dimensions of at least approximate accuracy have been 
used. The examples have been taken from Austria, Germany, Italy, 
and France, since the author follows the principle of speaking only 
of cities that he has seen and observed for their artistic worth. This 
principle alone makes it possible to produce a worthwhile, useful 
work, and distinguishes it from the exhaustive comprehensiveness of 
a history of city building. 

C. SITTE 


Vienna, May 7, 1889 


121 



Preface to the Second Edition 

The first printing of the book was completely exhausted within 
a few weeks after its appearance. This is gratifying evidence that our 
purpose of stimulating an active interest is being accomplished. The 
time for precise judgment is not yet at bond, and there appears to be 
no need at present for expanding the material presented in the origi- 
nal edition. This second edition, therefore, appears without change. 

THE AUTHOR 

Vienna, June 1889 


Preface to the Third Edition 

The fundamental idea of this book — ^sending city building to 
school to nature and to the ancients — has, since its publication, been 
impressively translated into practice in a manner that is supremely 
gratifying and, to the pessimistic author, most surprising. Some emi- 
nent colleagues have been outspoken in their statements that through 
this work on entire new trend in building cities will be started. This 
should be put in its proper light. A literary effort can produce such an 
effect only when, so to speak, the air is charged with its subject. We 
may not expect such gratifying results until there is a general feeling 
and understanding that in some way finds clear expression. As this 
does not depend upon the elaboration of detail, the third edition is 
appearing in unchanged form. 

THE AUTHOR 

Vienna, August 24, 1900 


122 



Preface to the Fourth Edition 

In 1902 The Art of Building Cities appeared in French as 
L' Art de Batir les Villes, translated and completed by Camille Martin. 
Our father took this occasion to make some revision for a new edition 
in German, which is followed in this fourth edition. The article "City 
Vegetation" which thus far has been available only to a small circle 
of readers, is added as an appendix. * * Plans of the Acropolis of Athens 
and the Forum Romanum, with some examples of the latest scientific 
research have also been added. Some of the ground plans have been 
worked over and as far as possible perspective drawings have been 
replaced with photographs,** but within the meaning of the prefaces 
to the two preceding editions , the work as it appears in this issue 
remains unaltered. 

SIEGFRIED and HEINRICH SITTE* 

Vienna, December, 1908 


*Camillo Sitte died November 16. 1903 

*Not included in this English translation. 


123 




INDEX 


A 

Acropolis of Athens 6, 9, 72 

Adams, Thomas 68(n) 

Alexandria 2, 6 

Altenbourg 23 

Amalfi 71 

Amsterdam 23 


Antwerp 65 

Arcades frontispiece, 22, 23-4, 55, 92, 99', 104, 106 

Architectural Control 112 

Aristotle -. . . . '1 


Athens. . . 
Augsburg 
Autun . . . 
Avignon 


6, 59; 72 
;65 
.... 15 
.... 64 


c 

Capitol (Campidoglio, Rome) 48, 50, 70 

Cassel 62, 63 

Catania 76 

Chicago 68 

Chicago Plan Commission 68(n) 

City Plan Competitions 86, 88, 110, 113 

Coblenz 50, 51 

Circular Plazas. 64-66 

Cologne !.../„ 23, 43, 46 

V, Competitions for city plans. 86, 88, 110, 113 

Compromise between art and utility. . .>. . 60*Jl-2, 89 

Constance. ' -i ,. 44 

Copenhagen .' 44, 45 

Cremona......'... 17 


B 

Bacon, Henry 117 

Baedeker 11 

Bamberg 23, 43 

Baroque style 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 64, 66, 74, 76, 

88, 89, 95,97, 105 

Baumeister, R 19, 29, 54, 56, 83 

Belvedere style 50 

Berlin 28, 65, 81 

Bologna 23 

Bolswaert 70 

Bremen 47 

Brescia 18,20,23 

Breslau ' — 05 

Brigue 23 

Bruges 22 

Brunswick 23, 45 

Brussels 70, 110 

Budapest 05 

Building Line 70 


D 


Danzig 1 22, 43, 65 

Darmstadt 65 

David (of Michelangelo) 11, 13' 

Delphi 6 

Demonstration models of city building 

projects 111-112 

Depth and expanse, squares of 25, 32, 37, 44, 45 

Deventer 70 

Deutsche Bameitmg 81 

Dimensions of public squares 26-8, 78, 99 

Dinocrates 2 

Donatello 15 


Dresden 


51, 55, 76-8, 97, 110 


Diisseldorf 


65 


E 

Eleusis 0 

Expanse and depth, squares of. ... . 25, 32, 37, 44, 45 


125 



F 

Ferare 17 

Figaro 54 

Florence 8-9, 10, 11. 12, 22, 23. 24, 25, 31, 36, 50 

Forster, E 110 

Forum Romanum 4, 5, 49 

Frankfurt-am-Main 43, 44, 66 

Freiburg. 40, 41, 65 

Fribourg-en-Brusgau 23 

G 

German Association of Architects 

and Engineers. 81. 88 

Gloriette style 50 

(Sorlitz 70 

Gotha 65 

H 

Halberstadt 70 

Halle 23 

Hamburg 28, 65 

Hammerstrand, Nils 114 

Hanover 46, 65 

Haussman, Baron Georges Eugene. 117 

Heilbronn 70 

Hexagonal Planning 68 

Hildesheim 49 

Hildesheim, Bishop Bernard von 49 

Hoogstraeten 70 

I 

Iimtotion of the ''picturesque" 10, 72 

Irregularity, concealment of 56, 934 

K 

Karlsruhe 65 

Kiel 44. 45 

Kincaid, H. Evart. 68(n) 

L 

La Hoye — , 70 

Le Corbusier vii 

Leiden 70 

Leipzig 65 


Lemgo 70 

L'Enfant, Major Pierre Charles 117 

Letters and numerals as street names 60 

Loggia dei Lanzi (Florence) 10, 22, 53 

London ix 

Liibeck 46, 70 

Lucca 17, 35 

Lyon 64 

M 

MacMahon, Marie Edme Patrice Maurice 54 

Mainz 43 

Mannheim 60 

Mantua 22, 36 

Martin, Camille 123 

Michelangelo 11, 13, 50, 54 

Milan 17 

Models to demonstrate city building projects. . . 112 

Modena 25, 35 

Morgan, J. P 117 

Munich 41,53, 65. 95, 110 

Muller, J. G 110 

Munster 23, 47 

N 

Nancy 22, 23 

Naples 76 

Nero 64 

New York City 114,116,117 

Nimeguen 22 

Nimes 64, 65 

North America, rectangular division of 84 

Numerals and letters as street names 60 

Nuremberg 14, 15, 43, 49, 59, 70 

0 

Officialdom in civic art 81-2, 88 

Olympia 5, 6 

P 

Paderborn 23 

Padua 15, 16, 30 

Palermo 16, 17, 30, 64 


126 



Pallazo Vecchio (Forence) 11, 15 

Pantheon 49 

Paris 15,27,28,43,63,64,76,95,98 

Parks 66-67, 86 

Parma 21, 22 

Pausanias 6 

Pavia 17 

Perugia IS, 36 

Phidias 54 

Pisa 8, 9, 99 

Pistoia 22 

Placement of monuments, statues, 
and fountains. . 5, 10-16, 34, 78-80, 93, 101, 104, 108-9 

Planning program 85-88 

Planting in cities 65-67, 108 

Pompeii 1, 2, 4, 22 

Population increase, effect on civic design 69 

Prague 65 

Princeton Architectural Association 114 

Proportion and symmetry 33 

R 

Ravenna 21, 22 

Regensburg (Ratisbon) 44, 53 

Reggio 17 

Rennes 54 

Roman Forum 4, 5, 49 


70,75,76,78,106 

Rothenburg 14,70 

Rouen 22 

St. Mark's Plaza (Venice) — frontispiece, 28, 36-8, 77 

St. Peter's (Rome) 22, 26, 75, 76, 77, 78 

Salzburg 23, 47, 48 

Scaliger 104 

Scamozzi 47 

Schwerin 44 

Semper, Gottfried 77-8, 97, 110 

Sienna 32 

Signoria of Florence 8-9, 10, 12, 15, 22, 36, 38 

Solari 47 


Squares: 

of depth and expanse 25, 32, 37, 44, 45 

dimensions of 27-8, 78, 99 

Stettin 41. 45, 46 

Strassburg 41. 42, 43 

Street width 28 

Style unity 98, 100-101 

Symmetry in ancient building 32-34 

Syracuse 30 

Titian 37 

Traffic junctions and intersections 60-63 

Trieste 27, 56-7 

Turin ' 27, 63 

u 

Ulm 41 

Unity in style 98, 100-101 

V 

Venice frontispiece, 17, 27, 28, 36, 39, 70 

Verona 16, 17, 22, 23, 31, 104 

Veronese, Paul 37 

Vicenza 17, 29, 36 

Vienna. . . v, 10, 11, 28, 41, 43, 50, 51, 52, 55, 62, 65, 66. 
67, 78-80, 84, 85, 87, 90, 92, 95 et seq., 110-112 

Villenviertel 85 

Vitruvius — 2, 3-4, 13, 33 

w 

Washington 117-8 

Weimar 65 

Whitten, Robert. 68{n) 

Width of streets 28 

Wiesbaden 74 

Wind Currents 87 

Wurzburg 44, 45, 50, 51; 65 

Y 

Ypres. 23 

Zurich 97 


127 



T]hIS book was set on the linotype. Memphis Medium type was 
used for the text matter. Though based on a century old Egyptian 
design, Linotype Memphis is far removed from its crude ancestors. 
A true contemporary face and the reflection of our scientific times, 
it combines the simplicity of functional form with the style smart- 
ness useful for books of an architectural nature. The classic type 
used throughout jacket, cover, title page, and heads is known as 
Copperplate Gothic, a type used by the printers of medieval times. 

The illustrations from the original German edition have been 
reproduced in this book. Printed by Ar-Kay Printing Company, Inc., 


New York.